Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Lir III

In Gallicenae (London, 1988) by Poul and Karen Anderson, the God Lir personifies the sea.

"Lir" is a personification because the personal pronoun "He" is used and His "...wrath..." is referred to (p. 135).

However, it is also recognised that the Being referred to as "Lir" is impersonal:

" '...Lir wears no human face...' " and is not prayed to (p. 135).

However, Lir is sacrificed to and obeyed. Paganism can have it both ways. Is His "wrath" anything more than the unpredictable, impersonal destructiveness of the sea? It is the other, anthropomorphic, Gods who seal the Pact that makes Ys hostage to Lir/vulnerable to the sea.

Yet again, we are shown Pagan religious experience of Gods in and through nature. The Lir Captain says:

" 'In storm, in fog, in dead calm and sea-blink through endless silences: I have known the Dread of Lir...'" (p. 135).

To learn the will of the God, Lir Captain sails alone out of sight of land, fasts, thirsts and remains sleepless, then remembers something relevant to the question that he has in mind, after which a breeze blows him home. Fasting and thirsting weaken the body, causing euphoria and hallucinations. To learn, I suggest, following the Buddha's teaching, keep the body healthy, reflect and meditate.

Time Passes II

Again, a period of time elapses. Seasons come and go. Gratillonius lives now permanently in Ys and we cannot be told everything that happens.

Chapter VI:

"Up from the South wandered spring..." (p. 116)

- and the opening paragraph of the Chapter describes the responses of nature and humanity to spring across Armorica.

Chapter VII, section 1:

"At high summer, the rain sometimes fell nearly warm..." (p. 132)

That is a scene in Ys.

Chapter VII, section 4:

"As closely as it followed winter solstice, the Birthday of Mithras gave a glimmer of daylight, barely more than six hours, in a cavern of night." (p. 153)

- appropriate, since Mithras should be worshiped in a cave.

Chapter VIII, section 1:

"The equinoctial gales blew out of Ocean like longings, to wake the soul from winter drowse." (p. 159)

Chapter VIII, section 2:

"Early summer brought a spell of calm, light, warmth." (p. 168)

Chapter VIII, section 4:

"An autumn storm roared, whistled, flung rain and hail, throughout one night." (p. 181)

Chapter IX, section 1:

"Winter's early night had fallen..." (p. 198)

Chapter IX, section 4:

"That year huge rainstorms arrived in succession..." (p. 214)

- affecting harvests throughout Armorica.

Chapter X, section 1, paragraph 2:

"Rainstorms gave way to fog. As summer waned..." (p. 222)

Chapter XI, section 4:

"Often around the autumnal equinox, storms..." (p. 253)

Chapter XII, section 2:

"The months wheeled onward, through winter and spring and again to summer." (p. 269)

Chapter XII, section 3:

"That had been a quiet year in Ys. Yet folk came to believe that mighty things were astir in the womb of time." (p. 273)

- there are cyclical seasonal changes but also a sense of great events approaching.

Chapter XIII, section 3:

"Again the year swung towards equinox. Summer died..." (p. 302)

Chapter XIV, section 1:

"As autumn yellowed leaves..." (p. 307)

Chapter XIV, section 2:

"Forty days after solstice, the diminishing gloom of winter was made bright in Ys." (p. 310)

- by yet another royal birth.

Chapter XV begins with Dahut, twelve, approaching physical maturity.

Chapter XV, section 2, begins:

"Very early in the shipping season..." (p. 327)

Chapter XVI, section 2:

"Summer lay heavy over the land." (p. 351)

Chapter XVI, section 4:

"Midwinter rites and festival...went past solstice." (p. 362)

I have jumped over human and political events to show how the novel moves through the years. I must now return to the beginning of Chapter VII and continue rereading until the end of the concluding Chapter XVII in order to reach the half way point of the tetralogy.

Ausonius

Another real person encountered by Gratillonius in Gallicenae (London, 1988) by Poul and Karen Anderson is Decimus Magnus Ausonius, described in the list of Dramatis Personae as "Gallo-Roman poet, scholar, teacher, and sometime Imperial officer." (p. 424)

Ausonius had corresponded with Bodilis, one of the Nine Witch-Queens of Ys who are married to their King, Gratillonius. Consequently, the latter visits Ausonius when the opportunity arises.

Ausonius thinks that Ys might " '...hold the world's highest civilization..." but is also aware of "That mysterious force which has worked for centuries to erase its name from our chronicles...' " (p. 97)

- which is why we read about it only in legends and works of fiction.

Told that Gratillonius is Mithraist, Ausonius responds:

" '...I'm Christian myself, but hold that to be no grounds for scorning the ancients or any upright contemporaries who believe otherwise. Surely God is too great to be comprehended in a single creed...' " (p. 98)

Did the real Ausonius say anything like this? If so, then we might comment either that he was ahead of his time or that a great deal of Classical Pagan sense counteracted his Christianity. Bishop Martinus and Maximus Augustus would scarcely have agreed that God was not comprehended by the Christian creed.

Father Gratillonius

In Gallicenae (London, 1988) by Poul and Karen Anderson, Gratillonius as Roman prefect in Ys must arrange for the appointment of a Christian minister to the city. As King of Ys, he must participate in rites where he is regarded as the Incarnation of one of the Gods of the city.

His religious position becomes even more complicated when, on an excursion outside of Ys and of necessity concealing his activities from the Roman authorities, he is consecrated as a Father in the Mystery of Mithras.

First, as a Runner of the Sun, he "...concelebrated the Mystery..." (p. 96)

Then, when consecrated, "...for the first time he...lifted the chalice...and drank the blessed wine..." (p. 96)

A Catholic priest, addressed as "Father," does precisely that. And, early in the Catholic liturgy, comes the phrase, "To prepare ourselves to celebrate the sacred mysteries..."

I cannot avoid the perception that this is a single religious tradition changing its forms, including even the name and identity of its deity.

The forms are wider than Mythraic/Christian. As a Teaching student, I visited a Gurdwara and two Synagogues. Of the latter, one had stained glass windows with Biblical scenes including human figures whereas the other had stained glass without images. A Jewish man, not a Rabbi, said that a Christian or a Muslim attending a Synagogue service would not hear anything to disagree with but would be dissatisfied, "No reference to Jesus, no reading from the Koran." A fellow student and I afterwards agreed that this guy had a good grasp of the essence of each religion. Also, when describing how the Rabbi holds up the Torah scroll to be seen by the congregation, he commented, "Shades of the elevation of the Host..."

So rituals influence each other, Mithraic, Christian and Jewish.

One Strong Man?

Could one strong man have saved the Roman Empire? Well, not indefinitely but we can at least argue that some policies would have been better than others. In Poul and Karen Anderson's Gallicenae (London, 1988), Gratillonius is understandably disillusioned with the usurper Maximus whom he had supported.

"He had not strengthened the Empire, he had split it asunder..." (p. 91)

The Empire was already divided between West and East and Maximus divided it further when he had to settle for co-ruling only part of the West.

"...as Roman slew Roman." (p. 91)

Well, that is going to happen in any military seizure of power so maybe it should only have been done if it had first been possible to deploy overwhelming force in order to minimise civil conflict.

"He had not given it peace and prosperity..." (p. 91)

A ruler cannot guarantee prosperity but can try to secure its primary condition, peace. That would have to mean both strong defences against barbarians and openness to trading with them if they could be persuaded that this was preferable to piracy. Thus, turn military force outwards, not inwards.

"...he had raised persecution and fear." (p. 91)

Persecuting non-Christians and fellow Christians. Great achievement, Maximus.

"He had broken pledge after pledge..." (p. 91)

That speaks for itself.

"He proposed to violate the ancient compact with Ys." (p. 91)

Ys wanted to keep to itself. Gratillonius had done an amazing job of persuading Ysans to defend Armorica, not just their own city. But Maximus, if he could, would enter Ys to suppress its religion. Some aspects of that religion were certainly in need of reformation but suppression is never the way.

Judging The Gods

I asked the founder of Brigannti Moot, a Pagan group, "Do the gods exist independently of us or are they are our projections?" He replied, "The gods are our projections and don't let anybody tell you anything different!" When I relayed this to a Dianic, she responded, "That's his opinion!" A Heathen thinks that Odin and Thor exist as discernible presences though not exactly as described in the Eddas. It is not necessary to be Fundamentalist.

A fellow Philosophy graduate student who intended to train for the Presbyterian ministry, and who has since worked in that ministry, thought that Christians need to mount a moral defence of God's actions, not just say that whatever He does must be right. Rudolf Otto's idea was that some gods are awesome but not moral whereas the Biblical God is both, thus "holy."

I think that the gods are our projections and, even if they weren't, they would still be morally answerable. This brings me to Gratillonius assessing the Gods that are known to him in Poul and Karen Anderson's Gallicenae (London, 1988). He thought that:

the Olympians were dead;
the Ysan Gods "...were inhuman";
Christ "was a pallid stranger";
"Mithras alone stood fast, Mithras all alone." (p. 94)

The Olympians had been displaced by Christ. The Three of Ys are respectively feminine, masculine and elemental, thus personal and impersonal, human and inhuman. But Gratillonius perceives their demands on him as inhuman. Jesus would have been dark skinned, not "pallid," so that there is from the outset a difference between the man and the god. Gratillonius will later re-assess Mithras.

Time Out

I have just taken time out from Poul Anderson to reread "The Ethics of Madness" by Larry Niven, an early short story in the Known Space future history, published in 1967. It seems to come from a more innocent age:

technology, including medical technology, would continue to improve;
people would live longer and age less;
work would become easier and working hours less;
the economy would remain peaceful and prosperous throughout the many decades of a large population's extended lifespans.

Poul Anderson always recognised more sharply than Niven that life is not always easy and comfortable.

"The Ethics of Madness" comes from a time when the Known Space history was new and, like Anderson's History of Technic Civilisation, was a worthy successor to Robert Heinlein's seminal Future History. The idea of setting several short stories and novels with or without continuing characters within successive periods of a projected history of the future several centuries or more in length was a genuine innovation. It is fitting that two major sf writers, Anderson and Niven, have  presented versions of the future different from each others' and from that of their inspirer, Heinlein.

From Reality To Myth

To us, the Gods of Olympus and Ys are myths. In Poul and Karen Anderson's King Of Ys tetralogy, Gratillonius, the last King of Ys, directly experiences the power of the Ysan Gods yet, if he were here now, he would agree with us that they are myths. That process had begun:

"...Ys Whose Gods he had in his heart forsworn and Who were fading away into myth." (Gallicenae (London, 1988), p. 88)

These are two powerful premises for works of fantasy -

First premise: the Gods existed exactly as described in all the stories about them.
Second premise: the Gods are myths.
Corollary: Their ontological status has changed.
Conclusion/Story Ideas: Their status has changed because - (fill in the blank).

In The Sandman no 50, "Ramadan," Neil Gaiman presents an ingenious answer to this question asked not about Gods but about the fabulous Age of Baghdad, complete with flying carpets and bottled jinni. That Age now exists only in the realm of dreams and imaginings because Morpheus advised Haroun al Raschid that that was only way that it could live forever. It exists in the mind of a boy hearing a story in ruined Baghdad.

For Gratillonius:

"The Gods of Achilles, Aeneas, Vercingetorix were dead: phantoms at most, haunting glens and graveyards and the dusty pages of books." (p. 94)

Can there be ghosts of gods? Gratillonius here envisages three stages for Jupiter:

on Olympus;
as a phantom;
in books.

The God has reached that third stage in our era. Thus, the text imaginatively reconstructs a mythical age while also recognizing the reality of the current period when Gods are to be found only in books.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Calvinus

Calvinus is an interesting character in Poul and Karen Anderson's Gallicenae (London, 1988).

(i) The resemblance of his name to that of John Calvin is coincidental but appropriate.

(ii) The list of "Dramatis Personae" indicates that he is historical and was "An agent of Maximus' secret police. (p. 424) The text says that "...he was high in the Imperial secret service. His agents were everywhere, in every walk of life, with instructions to keep alert for anything the least suspicious and follow it up until they had sufficient clues to warrant full investigation." (p. 76) Thus, he is an opposite number of the Scotian spy of whom we read in Volume One, except that Calvinus has the full force of the state at his disposal.

(iii) What counts as suspicious? Gratillonius has secured the interests of Rome in Armorica - kept the peace, repelled invaders etc - but Maximus, Gratillonius' former Duke of Britain but now a Co-Emperor of the Western Roman Empire, is more concerned about whether his prefect has secured those interests by trafficking with Satan. Furthermore, torture is used in the interrogation. Anything is justified in opposing Satan.

Gratillonius' former colleague tells him:

" 'This town's full of jabber about the First Cause, the Sons of God and the sons of Darkness, spiritual Man, mystical numbers, and I don't know what else, except I was there when a man got knifed in a tavern ruckus that started over whether or not the age of prophecy is over.' " (p. 73)

Those sound like interesting issues to discuss, as Gratillonius did in the Star Tower at Ys, but not questions to be answered by deploying the forces of the state, a secret service and a torture chamber. If that is what was happening, then the Empire was indeed in serious decline. Did it decline because its resources were diverted into nonsense or because it had reached the limits of its ability to extract wealth from slave labour? If the latter, then the retreat into theological dogmatism was an ideological reflection of an irreconcilable contradiction in the economic base of society.

Maximus And Martinus

One pleasure of historical fiction is to read about encounters, interactions and conversations between a fictitious character who is the hero of the novel and real historical figures. Poul Anderson's time traveling characters meet a few kings and other celebrities.

In Poul and Karen Anderson's Gallicenae (London, 1988), Gratillonius en route to an audience with Maximus Augustus meets St Martin of Tours. Since this series is a historical fantasy, its action includes supernatural events, including both Pagan magic and Christian miracles. Thus, the fantastic stories told about Martinus may be true but Gratillonius has seen strange things in his Pagan city of Ys.

Apparently, St Martin and his monks went around destroying Pagan places of worship and erecting Christian sites in their place, an intolerable act which the state should have prevented, not encouraged. At the time, the fact that Martinus could get away with doing this while not suffering any supernatural sanction was regarded as proof that the old Gods were fading and that Christ's power was growing. Times have changed indeed. 

...And Gradlon

This is the sort of detail that is noticed only if looked for. The legendary King of Ys was called either Grallon or Gradlon. In Poul and Karen Anderson's The King Of Ys tetralogy, the Romano-British Centurion Gaius Valerius Gratillonius comes to Ys and becomes that King. Through several stages, the Andersons show us how the Ysans, finding Latin pronunciation difficult, gradually shortened his name to "Grallon."

" '...you, Grallon, fear about you.' She seldom gave him his proper name any more but, like an increasing number of Ysans and Osismii, softened it.' " (Gallicenae (London, 1988), p. 39).

But they incorporate "Gradlon" also. A drunken brigand negotiating with Gratillonius says, "'You're a good fellow, Gra- Gra- Gradlon.'" (p. 59)

That brigand will be important later.

Dig The Covers


Each new edition of a novel is the same text as before but is an opportunity for a new cover illustration. The covers of the uniform Grafton editions of Poul and Karen Anderson's King Of Ys tetralogy (see the attached image and an earlier post, "The King Of Ys, Volume Two") are beautiful, evocative pictures, fully appropriate to the contents of each volume.

Even when internally illustrated, which is rare, a novel is essentially a words only medium so that the visual experience presented by the cover illustration ceases as soon as the book is opened. That is as it should be as long as we continue to value prose fiction.

However, there could be an animated film adaptation of the tetralogy based on the style of the covers - although even better than this would be a sequential art (comic strip) adaptation in which the static representational art continues beyond the cover and continues to be appreciated while the reader also follows the story.

The Age Of The Fish

In Gallicenae (London, 1988) by Poul and Karen Anderson, a Witch-Queen of Ys says that the Gods

"'...Themselves are troubled. For the heavens have moved from the Sign of the Ram to the Sign of the Fish, and the old Age dies as the new comes to birth.'" (p. 32)

That sounds familiar. In Greek, "Ichthys," meaning "fish," is also the initials for the phrase "Jesus Anointed God's Son Saviour." The fish is a symbol of life and associated with Jesus through parables and miracle stories. Could these be the meanings of the Ages? -

Ram: agriculture, animal sacrifice;
Fish: Christianity;
Aquarius, Water Carrier: watering the seeds planted in the previous Age.

I have seen three versions of "Ichthys" on cars:

the Christian symbol;
the symbol with legs enclosing the word "Darwin";
the symbol with legs and an arm holding a spanner enclosing the word "Evolve."

"Ichthys" is preferable to an instrument of torture and execution, as are the seated Buddha and the Taoist yin-yang symbol.

Addendum: Also, the Water Carrier is a man so the Aquarian Age is the Age of Men, meaning human beings as opposed to Gods, maybe with the God-Man of the Piscean Age as an intermediary? (I interpret astrology symbolically, not literally.)

Church And State

In Gallicenae by Poul and Karen Anderson (London, 1988), the King of Ys is " '...high priest and Incarnation of Taranis...' " (p. 30), needed in the city for " '...ceremonial and sacral tasks...' " (p. 29). However, the present King is also the Roman prefect in the city. He must leave Ys for an extended period for three purposes:

to make a personal report on political and military matters to the Co-Emperor, Maximus Augustus;
to find a replacement for the deceased Christian minister in Ys;
to seek elevation to the rank of Father in the Mystery of Mithras in order to be able to found a Mithraeum in Ys.

Can the Incarnation of one God give allegiance to another?

Gratillonius retorts:

" 'Have we become Christians here, to deny respect to everything divine other than the Lord of our narrow sect?...Or sects, rather. They might as well have a dozen different Christs, the way they quarrel about His nature.' " (p. 30)

I sympathise with Gratillonius, the Mithraist Incarnation of Taranis. Issues of faith could be settled neither by experience nor by reason but only by authority backed, originally, by Constantine's military might. Gratillonius supports civilisation, therefore the Empire, but thinks that its citizens should be free to serve Christ, Mithras or Someone Else - with which I agree.

Monday, 29 October 2012

The King Of Ys, Volume Two

Volume One of Poul and Karen Anderson's King Of Ys tetralogy culminates with the death of Dahilis. Volume Three culminates with the drowning of Ys. Is there a comparable culmination to Volume Two? I will find out by rereading.

Two important events follow the death of Dahilis, the Caesarian birth of her daughter, Dahut, and the divine choice of a new Queen.

Volume Two, Gallicenae (London, 1988) begins with the child Dahut's point of view:

"The child knew only that she was upon the sea." (p. 21)

- but some of the narration refers to knowledge that she does not have:

"The child did not recognize a piece of driftwood as being off a wreck." (p. 23)

Dahilis is present as a seal that accompanies the yacht, watching Dahut, then, when she falls into the sea, holding her until she is rescued by her father.

The second section of Chapter I reverts to the father's point of view and reveals how much time has elapsed since Volume One:

"The summons came to Gaius Valerius Gratillonius in the third year during which he had been Roman prefect and King of Ys." (p. 25)

This also tells us that Dahut is between one and two years old.

As when reading any series of books, we recognise names and contexts. After reading the summons, Gratillonius "...sent for Bodilis and Lanarvalis...", names which remain meaningful if we have read Volume One sufficiently recently (p. 25).

For those who have not read or do not remember Volume One, the text of Volume Two is preceded by a ten page italicised "Synopsis" (pp. 11-20).

The question before the reader is whether Gratillonius will be able to maintain his difficult balancing act of prefect for Rome and King of Ys. Ysans expect him to remain King until killed by a challenger whereas he expects to leave when he has completed his duty as prefect.

That Guy Marius Again

In Roma Mater (London, 1989) by Poul and Karen Anderson, each of the Nine Witch-Queens of Ys has her own house where she is served by free servants, not by slaves. (There are no slaves in Ys although Ysan ships might engage in piracy and slave-trading elsewhere.) Each Queen inherits a house and redecorates it to her taste.

A post on this blog could list the Queens and descriptions of their houses but for the present we concentrate on Lanarvilis, visited by the King in Chapter XXII. Her house is the "...most luxuriously appointed..." with Oriental drapes, Egyptian portraits, Grecian figurines and Roman busts (p. 374).

The busts are of those "...whose workmanship had shored up, enlarged, repaired their state." (pp. 374-375) The names listed are Marius, Caesar, Augustus and Hadrianus. We have met them all before:

Marius defeated barbarian invaders of Italy in Poul Anderson's The Golden Slave and his name is the title of the opening story of a future history;
Caesar made Ys a foederate of Rome;
Augustus sent his engineers to build its sea defences;
Gratillonius, now King of Ys, was on Hadrian's Wall when Maximus summoned him to be dispatched on his mission to Ys.

Thus, a simple list of four names summarises that much history.

Time Passes

In Roma Mater (New York, 1989) by Poul and Karen Anderson, the Roman Centurion Gratillonius becomes King of Ys and persuades the Nine Witch-Queens of that city to send a storm to destroy a Scotian fleet that will attack not Ys but a city further down the Armorican coast. The Ysans would not have harmed anyone who was not attacking them but Gratillonius is Roman prefect as well as Ysan King.

After the defeat of the Scoti, the narrative for several chapters ceases to follow a single sequence of events. The Andersons convey that a period of time passes with Gratillonius as the Ysan King.

Chapter XVI begins:

"Ys jubilated." (p. 288)

Not only is there a Fire Fountain in the Forum for six weeks but the Nine can promise "...fine weather - part of the celebrations..." (p. 288).

Chapter XVII begins:

"After the victory celebrations, Ys settled back down into the ways of peace." (p. 302)

Chapter XIX:

"Festivals surrounded Midsummer." (p. 337)

In Chapter XX, section 1, we learn that Gratillonius' deputy among the legionaries has "...kept them in sharp form...," cooperating with the Ysan regulars, but can now announce a party. (p. 348) We imagine that the Green Whale where they will feast is the inn to which two of them, and we, were introduced in Chapter IX. Sometimes it happens that men who are used to popular entertainment see and unexpectedly appreciate some Shakespeare. That happens here. Expecting a comedy by Plautus, they instead see Aeschylus' Agamemnon translated into Ysan by one of the Nine. They want to know what happens next and one of them has " '...heard Greek plays go in threes...' " (p. 351).

Chapter XX, section 2:

"Summer advanced in triumphal procession." (p. 351)

Gratillonius has time for himself. In Ys, the King can walk around town and meet Ysans. He sails, rides, hunts, explores, talks late with philosophers, participates in sports, relaxes and practices handicraft. The authors describe the scenery as he walks home.

Chapter XXI:

"Summer welled forth in its final great warmth, light, and greenness." (p. 356)

Chapter XXII:

"At equinox all the Nine must be in Ys, attending the Council and carrying out certain rites." (p. 366)

Chapter XXIII:

"The Black Months were upon Armorica. As Midwinter drew nigh..." (p. 380)

By the end of the volume, months have elapsed. Dahilis, one of the King's nine wives gives birth...

Witchcraft, Natural Philosophy And The Universe

Imagine human knowledge as a finite but growing circle on an infinite plane. However large the circle grows, there is always an infinity beyond it. As the circle grows, both its area, the known, and its circumference, the contact with the unknown, increase. Thus, the more we know, the more we realize how little we know. Someone with a small circle has a small circumference and thus has very little contact with the unknown or awareness of its extent.

"What does he know of England who only England knows?"

A Kurt Vonnegut novel contains the rhyme:

"My name is Yon Yonson.
"I live in Wisconsin.
"I work in the paper mills there.
"When people ask me my name, I say,
" 'My name is Yon Yonson...' " etc.

That expresses someone that knows who he is, where he is, what he does and nothing else and is proud to repeat this endlessly instead of listening to anyone or anything else. The name implies sameness with his father. Not only has Yon always been in Wisconsin but his family has.

In Roma Mater (London, 1989) by Poul and Karen Anderson, the inhabitants of the city of Ys already know enough, both through witchcraft and through natural philosophy (early science), to know that there is a very great deal that they do not know.

A Witch-Queen in a trance says:

" 'It is lonely being a spirit out of the flesh. The stars are more far away than ever we knew; the cold of those vastnesses comes seeping down over the world, through and through me.' " (p. 90)

Authors and readers know that the Queen senses interstellar space but how can she be aware of it?

An astrologer, who is thus also an astronomer, says:

" 'I am not at all sure of the horoscopes I cast...If there is fate, then methinks 'tis on a grander scale, the forces of it all but incomprehensible to us.' " (p. 328)

He is old and experienced and is enough of a natural philosopher to sense that there is more to natural laws and to their effects on humanity than can be expressed in the kind of horoscopes that he has inherited from his ancestors.

Returning to the Witch-Queens, one of them says:

" 'This is something that must be, lest the time-stream flow still worse awry.' " (p. 345)

Does she sense something of what future physicists or time travelers might come to know about alternative time-streams? In Poul Anderson's "Star of the Sea," which also refers to a goddess but is historical science fiction, not historical fantasy, Time Patrollers know that they have traveled back to a time before a split in events and that they must guide events "...out of the unstable space-time zone..." - an extraordinary concept. (Anderson, The Time Patrol (New York, 1991), p. 391).

Good King Grallon II

(First see earlier post, "Good King Grallon.")

 At last, another wife addresses Gratillonius directly as "'...dear Grallon...' " (Poul and Karen Anderson, Roma Mater (London, 1989), p. 355).

Here, she is no longer mispronouncing "Gratillonius" but simply using the new Ysan form of the name, the one that, with its alternative "Gradlon," will be recorded in the legend from which the Andersons have created the fictitious character, Gaius Valerius Gratillonius.

Rereading but now scanning ahead, I notice one other reference in this opening volume of the tetralogy. Back to the King's favorite wife, Dahilis:

"His right name eluded her. It was lengthy, Latin, unmusical. Her tongue remembered how Ysans sometimes rendered it. 'Grallon. Oh, Grallon.' " p. 414.

It was she herself who, at least in our hearing, had stumbled on "Gratillonius," first saying "Grallon," then correcting herself (p. 317). Thus, very carefully, through five stages and over hundreds of pages, the authors have transformed the Latin name of their Romano-British character into the name of the legendary Ysan king.

Lir II

Having established earlier that one god, Lir, was the father of another, Mananaan, I then asked about Lir's parentage but established only that he was " '...dawn-begotten...' " (Poul and Karen Anderson, Roma Mater (London, 1989), p. 124). That could have meant either "begotten by the dawn" or only "begotten in the dawn" but read further and the answer is given.

The Symposium, meeting in Star House, has a discussion that we recognize as a curious fusion of philosophy and mythology. They set out to discuss " '...the nature of God and Spirit, the meaning and destiny of Creation...' " (p. 324). First, it is explained that:

" '...we who are educated, do not take ancestral myths for literal truth, as if we were Christians. They are symbols. As different languages, or different words in one language, may denote the same thing - albeit with subtle variations of aspect - so, too, may different Gods represent the same Being. They change with time as languages do, They develop according to the evolving needs of their worshipers. The very heavens change through the aeons; nevertheless, the reality of Heaven endures.' " (p. 326)

I agree with most of that. In particular, the resurrection of a deity is a symbol, not a literal truth. In that context, we learn that in the Beginning, Tiamat, the Serpent of Chaos, Who threatened to destroy Creation but was slain by Taranis, had been the mother of Lir who therefore killed Taranis, plunging heaven and earth into darkness, until Belisama descended into the underworld to ransom Taranis and brought Him back to make peace with Lir. Taranis dies and is reborn every year until the End of All Things. Ysans enact this mystery because Taranis dies in the defeated King and is resurrected in the victor who fathers new life on the Nine who are chosen by the Goddess. It all makes sense, almost.

Other Ysan families claim legendary descent from other Gods. There is a mystery about what happens to the dead. The Temples of Mithras and Cybele have cooperated, as I suggested earlier, but Gratillonius dislikes the Cybelean cult and thinks that Christ is a better God for women.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Bribing The Gods

" 'Manandan, I offer You a bull, white with red ears and mighty horns, for every lad of mine who comes home,' Niall cried." (Poul and Karen Anderson, Roma Mater (London, 1989), p. 286).

Does this sound like a very early and immature stage of religion? If there is a superhuman being Who can control the elements, why does He want bulls? And would we respect such a being if He helped us only when bribed? A higher concept of divinity is of beings who work for our good regardless.

Poul Anderson imagines this kind of religion continuing into the future. Nicholas van Rijn is intelligent, informed and canny. He has amassed vast wealth by his own efforts and more by employing capable people. Furthermore, he knows that this is the case. Yet he offers candles, altar cloths and the like to St Dismas in return for success in his enterprises, like a mariner putting oil in a lamp in the temple of Tanith on returning to Tyre in one of Anderson's Time Patrol stories.

Van Rijn seems to be like many successful people who acknowledge that there may be some truth in religion but who leave the custody of that truth in the hands of the priests. Meanwhile, they conduct their own mercantile affairs while making an outward observance by at least paying for the endowment of places of worship.

Conflict In Ys

(The image shows King Gradlon wearing a crown. The Andersons' Gratillonius refuses to wear one because he is a Mithraist.)

The King Of Ys tetralogy by Poul and Karen Anderson is a tragedy - although I am not sure that it is that in the Classical sense? We can see the hero's doom, though not his death, bearing down upon him but is it brought about by any weakness or flaw in his character?

In any case, the Irish King Niall curses Ys on page 287 in terms that are quite specific and that will be fulfilled later. Dahilis is pregnant and that is also highly relevant to the fate of Ys.

Conflicts:

Gratillonius refuses to wear the crown;
he persuades Ysans, against their better judgement, to defend the Empire;
forgetting that burials are forbidden, he promises to bury his second in command, then insists that he must keep his promise;
unwittingly, he initiates a Mithraist in running water sacred to the Goddess;
later, he will refuse to consummate his marriage with one of the Nine.

There are probably other conflicts that I will re-find on rereading.

The Myth Of Mithras

In Poul and Karen Anderson's Roma Mater (London, 1989), Gratillonius instructs a Mithraic postulant. The Andersons acknowledge that little is known about Mithraic doctrines but they "...present those which are reasonably well attested." (p. 480)

Gratillonius starts to speak of " '...the One from Which Everything comes...,' " then checks himself because Time, Aeon, Chronos, Saturnus, the Source, the Fountainhead, the Ultimate is "...for the higher ranks, those allowed into the sanctuary..." and, in any case, is not prayed to. (p. 305)

Christians and Buddhists pride themselves that they have no hidden or esoteric doctrines. This passage implies that Mithraists did. In some Indian traditions, meditative techniques are divulged only to initiates so that they will not become debased. John Blofeld, an expert on Tibetan Buddhism, wrote, in a very short chapter on secret Tibetan rituals, that anyone who claims to reveal such rituals should be disregarded because he is either lying or breaking a confidence. Zazen, which I practice, is open to all and much has been written about it but it is advisable to heed an informed instructor before starting to practice it. I would refer enquirers to the Group, not instruct them myself.

Having avoided mention of the Ultimate, Gratillonius identifies the highest God as Ahura-Mazda, variously named Ormazd, Jupiter, Zeus etc. The names do not matter so that, in this case, there is not any one true name. Gratillonius had said earlier that he did not worship Jupiter but, on that occasion, he referred to the chief Olympian, not to the highest Mithraic deity. I notice that, in Classical mythology, Saturn, a Titan, and Jupiter, an Olympian, belong to successive generations of gods while, in Mithraism, Saturn is a name for the Ultimate and Jupiter is a name for the highest god.

If we fight for Ahura-Mazda against Ahriman (Evil, Chaos), then our Commander is Mithras who was born from a rock, as was the Chinese Monkey King although I imagine that this is a coincidence. Shepherds saw, adored and made offerings although:

" 'This happened before there was life on earth.' " (p. 306)

Contradiction?

Ahura-Mazda made the Bull slain by Mithras. From Its body came life and "...from Its blood the wine of the Mystery." (p. 306) There was a flood, an ark and a last supper. It all sounds very crude. How is it known if it happened so long ago?

Good King Grallon

Like everyone else, Poul and Karen Anderson inherited the French legend of a King Grallon or Gradlon in the city of Ys. In their King Of Ys tetralogy, they created a fictitious character called Gaius Valerius Gratillonius. How is the latter transformed into the former?

The Ysans have trouble pronouncing the Latin name "Gratillonius." One of his nine wives says:

" 'This Gra - Gra-lo - Gratillonius has met the leaders of Ys...' " (Roma Mater, London, 1989, p. 158).

His favorite wife, Dahilis, says:

" 'You are much like Hoel as I remember him, Gra- Gratillonius.' Her Latin weak, she occasionally had trouble keeping the syllables of his name in place." (p. 166)

Later, Dahilis says:

 " '...I am, am with you always, Grallon - Gratillonius...' " (p. 317)

Thus, she gives him his Ysan name for the first time. He will be known as "King Grallon" and even as "good King Grallon" despite all the problems eventually caused by his Kingship. The way in which a heroic character acquires the name by which he will later be known is always an important part of his story but here the transition from "Gratillonius" to "Grallon" is so gradual and understated that it will be missed on a casual reading - and, for me, it was unearthed only by careful rereading.

Why Mithras Lost II

The cult was too elaborate. As described in Roma Mater (London, 1989) by Poul and Karen Anderson, there were three underling ranks of junior initiates, Ravens, Occults and Soldiers. Above them in a congregation were Lions, Persians and a Father attended by a Runner of the Sun or Heliodromos. A Persian wore a robe, mask and Phrygian cap.

After death, an initiate hopes to feast with Mithras but must first pass through seven gates en route to the stars, each guarded by an angel who first insists on further purification. The ascending soul leaves:

its vitality to the Moon;
its voracity to Mercurius;
its carnality to Venus;
its intellectuality to the Sun;
its militancy to Mars;
its pride to Jupiter;
its selfhood to Saturnus

- then, in the Light of the eighth heaven, is forever One with Ahura-Mazda, so I am not sure when the feast with Mithras occurs.

Christianity is simpler although Dante made the same interplanetary journey as the Mithraists.

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Lir

Roma Mater (London, 1989) by Poul and Karen Anderson confirms on page 271 that, as their names suggest, the Ysan sea god, Lir, is indeed the father of the Irish sea god, Manannan mac Lir. This gives an even greater unity to Poul Anderson's historical fantasies. There are two generations of gods:

the father is active in the Ys tetralogy;
the son is a character in two of the five "Viking" novels, The Broken Sword and The Demon Of Scattery.

What is Lir's parentage? The vestals sing:

" 'Lir of Ocean, dawn-begotten...' " (p. 124).

A summary of the origins of Ys suggests that Lir as a deity might have pre-existed his association with the sea:

"Lir, whose cult was more ancient than colony or tribe, took unto Himself the awe and dread of the sea." (p. 212)

Manannan is humanoid (see image) whereas Lir, never anthropomorphized, is sometimes described as three-legged and single-eyed but only to evoke "...something strange and terrible." (p. 122)

Of the Ysan Triad, Belisama, "the Brightest One," incorporating Ishtar-Isis, is the most comprehensive. She:

leads Taranis back from the dead to reconciliation with Lir;
is present at the act of generation;
ts the triple goddess;
leads the dead in the Wild Hunt.

These are most of the functions of a deity?

Elven Gardens

I think that the most haunting place name in Roma Mater (London, 1989) by Poul and Karen Anderson is "Elven Gardens." When Gratillonius first saw the city of Ys:

"He could scarcely believe that human beings dwelt there, not elves or Gods." (p. 104)

- so it is appropriate that the city contains an Elven Gardens.

The Gardens are shown on the map of the city. In the text, they are first mentioned on page 137 and again on page 248.

"...he could look over roofs to Elven Gardens; arbours, topiaries, early-blooming flowers. Adjoining, the Temple of Belisama..." (p. 137)

A wall with guarded entrances excludes the public. The area is small but hedges and narrow, curving, tree-roofed paths provide privacy. There are statues, a stream, staircases, arched bridges and a fountain with stone dolphins. One staircase leads to the temple from where there is a view of the city, its gleaming towers, headlands and the sea. The King meets with all nine Queens in the temple.

Having established the atmosphere and physical description of the Gardens early in Volume I, the Andersons are able to refer to it as to other parts of the city periodically throughout Volumes II and III of the tetralogy. Unfortunately, the city is destroyed at the end of Volume III.

Spying

Who was the first spy, secret agent or intelligence officer? Moses sent Caleb and others to check the lie of the Promised Land. Odysseus, disguised, entered the besieged Troy where he saw the casus belli, Helen. Thus, our oldest Mosaic and Homeric traditions describe spying expeditions.

Military intelligence gathering was a feature of the ancient world. In Roma Mater (London, 1989) by Poul and Karen Anderson, the Irish King Niall sends "'...a trusty man...on many a mission...' - '...to wander as a harmless pedlar, watching, listening, sometimes getting a soul drunk or furious till his tongue ran free.' " (p. 189) Later, Niall's adversary, the King of Ys, has a handfast man, a reformed brigand, who performs the same service for him.

Intelligence is gathered by witchcraft. Forsquilis of the Nine goes as an owl and sees a man, " '...him that I espied...it is he!' " (p. 91) Later, Gratillonius remembers seeing an owl. Later again, Forsquilis asks him if he remembers seeing an owl. She shows him her equipment - a chamber lit only by a lamp in a cat's skull, scrolls, codices, a Tyrean figurine, inscribed bones, dried herbs, old flints - and he asks her to spy on events elsewhere in the Roman Empire.

Anderson fans know that Dominic Flandry is an Intelligence Officer of the Terran Empire but intelligence gathering continues in a later series. In Volume IV of the Harvest Of Stars tetralogy, Solar artificial intelligence sends robot probes to spy on the extrasolar colonies. A download of the leading character Anson Guthrie responds by flying to the Solar System to gather intelligence there. Guthrie is a remote successor of Odysseus in more ways than one.

Friday, 26 October 2012

Ysan History

The fifth century BC Carthaginian explorer Himilco was the first sailor from the Mediterranean to reach North Western Europe. Because he sailed up the Atlantic coast of France, the Andersons, in Roma Mater (London, 1989), make him the founder of the Armorican coastal city, Ys, which the Carthaginians needed to be a self-sufficient trading post and naval base. Immigrants to the newly founded colony included Babylonians and Egyptians escaping from Persian rule.

Since Himilco's exploratory voyages were eight and a half centuries before the time of the last King of Ys, Gratillonius, the latter hears only of a "legend" that Himilco slew a monster and that local ghosts prophesied inundation for the city if its inhabitants did not remain at peace with the Gods. Consequently, the city was dedicated to Ishtar, the Star of the Sea. Colonists identified Ishtar with Isis and the name, "Beth-Isis," House of Isis, was shortened to Ys.

Rome destroyed Carthage. Julius Caesar made Ys a foederate of Rome. Augustus Caesar sent engineers to construct the Ysan sea defences. The Ysan priestess Brennilis foresaw that the city would be veiled from history as its Gods kept it apart from the "...new God who was to come...," the God born in the reign of Augustus. (p. 215)

Thus, the Andersons construct for Ys an elaborate origin story referring explicitly to Himilco, Julius and Augustus and indirectly to Cyrus of Persia who conquered Babylon and to Scipio Africanus who defeated Hannibal of Carthage.

Important Ysans

The King.
The prefect. (A post vacant for two hundred years, then held by the man who also became King.)
The Nine Witch-Queens.
The vestals, any of whom might become a Queen.
Adruval Tyri, Sea Lord, ex officio Council member.
Bomatin Kusuri, sea captain, Marine delegate to the Council.
Cothortin Rosmertai, Lord of Works, ex officio Council member.
Esmunin Sironai, chief astrologer.
Eucherius, Christian minister.
Hannon Baltisi, Lir Captain.
Iram Eluini, Lord of Gold, ex officio Council member.
Maeloch, fisher captain, Ferrier of the Dead.
Soren Cartagi, Speaker for Taranis, Timbermen delegate to the Council.
Taenus Himilco, a landholder.
Zeugit, landlord of the Green Whale.

Ysan names are distinctive. Ys was a Carthaginian colony and "Himilco" is a Carthaginian name.

In An Ysan Inn

I commented earlier on convivial drinking places in Poul Anderson's fiction, most notably the Old Phoenix. There is a perfect example in Roma Mater (London, 1989) by Poul and Karen Anderson.

Located in the Fish Tail - the small slum in the city of Ys - the inn occupies a former home, centuries old. Everything is faded. There are fragments of sculptures and mosaics. A stain half way up the walls was caused by sea damage before the rampart was built - an appropriate drinking place for sailors and fishermen, perhaps as near as they can come to Aegir's Hall or Davy Jones' Locker.

The inn sells mead and wine. Its interior is candle-lit and smoky, with kitchen odors. There are three resident prostitutes. Four fishermen sit at one end of a long table, an Ysan naval man and his companions, two Roman legionaries, at the other. After a near fight over a prostitute, Ysans and Romans fraternize, drink together and swap songs. This occasion, described in section 3 of Chapter IX (pp. 176-185), sets the scene for later social gatherings.

En route to the inn, the Ysan seaman genuflects before the Shrine of Melqart (the city founders' original name for Taranis), mentions a similar Shrine of Ishtar (Belisama) and shows his companions a pillar that was raised to an unknown God before the city was built. The Pagan legionary thinks that his Christian comrade will not understand this honour to the Gods. The Christian replies that he " 'ain't that good a Christian...' " and also that the place " '...is 'aunted...' " (p. 180).

Thus, the authors continue to present the uncanniness of Ys as well as its hospitality and fellowship.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Kings Of Ys

Kings known by Quinipilis (names of Gratillonius' first nine Queens in bold):

Redorix. This landholder, widowed and ruined by a barbarian raid, successfully challenged the reigning King of Ys. He reigned nine years, was the father of Gladwy, who became Quinipilis in the reign of Wulfgar, and died fighting Saxon rovers.

Calloch. An Ysan delegation bought this gladiator to replace Redorix as King. He reigned six years and was the father of the high priestesses Fennalis and Morvanalis.

Wulfgar. This Saxon outlaw reigned nineteen years, enlarged the Navy and was the father of Karilis, Quistilis, Lanarvilis, Tambilis and Bodilis. Because Tambilis became a Queen and the mother of Bodilis, Wulfgar lost the will to live and easily fell to Gaetulius.

Gaetuilius. This Army deserter reigned eleven years and was the father of Maldunilis, Innilis and Vindilis.

Lugaid. This Scotian reigned four years and was the father of Forsquilis.

Hoel. An escaped slave, a good King and the father of Dahilis.

Colconor. A rapist and brigand, cursed by the Nine and killed by Gratillonius.

Gratillonius.

Gratillonius' Responsibilities

In Roma Mater (London, 1989) by Poul and Karen Anderson, Gaius Valerius Gratillonius is:

an initiate in the Mystery of Mithras;
a Roman Centurion;
the Prefect of Rome in the city of Ys;
the King of Ys;
the Incarnation of the Ysan God, Taranis.

Thus, Gratillonius incarnates Taranis but worships Mithras and represents a state that recognizes Christ. As Prefect, he must consult Bishops and appoint a Christian minister to Ys.

If history had gone differently, then the theologizing mind could have systematized Gratillonius' three deities as a natural and supernatural trinity:

Taranis, sky father;
Mithras, whose ancient sacrifice of the primordial Bull fructified nature;
Christ, whose recent sacrifice of himself sanctifies souls.

That did not happen but there were ancient attempted syntheses. Marcion formulated "Gospel and Apostle," i.e., Luke and Paul, regarding it as antithetical to "Law and Prophets," whereas the Christian Bible incorporates Old and New Testaments with the latter seen as fulfilling the former. Later, Mani claimed to synthesize the teachings of Zoroaster, the Buddha and Jesus.

Gratillonius' complicated military, political and religious responsibilities must be fulfilled in a world that differs from ours to the extent that divine intervention is not only believed but also seen to occur. By the power of Belisama, the King's virility never fails with any of the Nine but always fails with any other woman. The Nine bear only girls who become vestals. When any of the Nine dies, a red crescent appears on one of the vestals. She is the next Queen. No law prevents a daughter of the current King from being marked but incest is as unacceptable to a Mithraist as to a Christian.

Thus, when the Three intend to end their Pact with the city, they make this impossible demand and Gratillonius' daughter, Dahut, alienated by what she sees as his rejection of her, becomes the agent of the city's destruction. But, before that, we read three long volumes set in Ys of the colored towers, Lir and Taranis Ways, Goose Fair and Elven Gardens.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

The Approach To Ys

In Roma Mater (London, 1989), Poul and Karen Anderson carefully over several chapters establish the uncanniness of Ys. A nearby military commander agrees that it is odd that curiosity has never made him visit the city. But then he mentions damnable strangeness, grisliness, witch-queens and black magic and concludes, " '...I don't want to talk about it.' " (p. 86)

By contrast, Gratillonius is drawn towards the city without knowing quite what its "...marvels..." are (pp. 82-83). It gives him an "...eerie thrill..." when, traveling through Gallia, he realizes that some unfamiliar local words must be Ysan in origin:

"They resembled none he had heard before, but stirred vague memories in him of names he had met when studying the history of the Punic Wars." (p. 97)

The Punic Wars are relevant because he has been told that the city was a Carthaginian colony. Before this, and shortly after Gratillonius has been told that Ys has "...nine witch-queens...," we read the short Chapter V in which the Nine are active on their "...desert island..." and we learn their names - Forsquilis, Vindilis, Bodilis, Quinipilis, Fennalis, Lanarvilis, Innilis, Maldunilis and Dahilis. (pp. 86, 89)

The Ysan boundary is marked by two ten foot granite pillars, the southern column inscribed in the Ysan alphabet, which Gratillonius cannot read, the northern in Latin, which he can. The latter invokes Venus, Jupiter and Neptunus. One of Gratillonius' men asks whether those old Roman gods still have power in this place but the Centurion explains that the Latin names are merely the nearest Roman equivalents to the Three of Ys, whose real names we read in Chapter V: Belisama (see image); Taranis; Lir.

Belisama is equated to Ishtar, Isis, Ashtoreth, Aphrodite, Venus and Nerthus and called "the Star of the Sea." This title, like the name "Nerthus" and the references to the Punic Wars, resonate for readers of Anderson's Time Patrol Series.

Chapter II, set in Hivernia, mentions the Irish sea god Manandan and the Notes give his full name, Manandan maqq Leri, later Manannan mac Lir. Under the latter name, this god is a character in Poul Anderson's The Broken Sword. "mac Lir" means "son of the sea." The Ysan sea god is simply "Lir" - father of Manandan? Unlike Manandan, Lir is "...never given human shape..." and the description of "...three legs and a single eye, in the middle of His head...was only a way of bespeaking something strange and terrible." (p. 122)

Here we see at least two stages of religious development:

first, the worship of terrifying, uncontrollable natural forces (in the Bible, the sea represents pre-cosmic chaos, controllable only by divine power);

secondly, the deification of female and male humanity.

The stages are shown in the relative ages of the divine images. Belisama and Taranis are Roman-commissioned Greek sculptures whereas:

"The emblem of Lir was immensely older, a rough granite slab engraved with Celtic spirals." (p. 122)

When Gratillonius first sees Ys, he reflects that it is strange that he and his father had traded so close yet he had never glimpsed the city till now. These continual references to people not visiting Ys when they could have done turn out to be significant because the city is supernaturally "Veiled."

When he first sees the high, narrow, brightly mosaiced towers shining in gold, glass and copper, made dream-like by an oceanic haze:

"He could scarcely believe that human beings dwelt yonder, not elves or Gods." (p. 104)

- a fitting culmination to all the mysterious hints in previous chapters.

In Ys, Gratillonius, a Mithraist, can do what a Christian could not, marry nine women simultaneously and become the Incarnation of Taranis. However, there are tensions between Mithras and the Three and eventually an irreconcilable conflict.

Where do the Three, or other pantheons, go when they have withdrawn? Alan Moore gives us a joke realm, the Bide A Wee Dimension for Retired Deities, but Neil Gaiman's Sandman series presents a more serious answer, involving the realms of Dream and Death. See here.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Rumors Of Ys II

The mystery continues as Gratillonius and his men approach Ys in the Anderson's Roma Mater (London, 1989). He tries to encourage them:

"...with a speech on the marvels awaiting them at Ys, but he was hampered by the fact that he didn't know just what those were." (pp. 82-83)

Despite this, he reflects that:

"His mission lay before him, in glorious Ys." (p. 88)

There is an Anglican equivalent, Susan Howatch's "...radiant, ravishing Starbridge."

At last, an Italian commander gives Gratillonius some information:

Ys was a Carthaginian colony;
Ysans interbred with the Old Folk who had raised the great stones;
they prospered on trade;
Caesar made them a foederate;
but Ys has not had an Imperial resident or paid tribute for a very long time;
asked to help in the defence of Armorica, Ysans reply that they help by patrolling their own waters;
the Duke of the Armorican tract lacks the manpower to enforce Ysan help;
the city is well protected by its wall;
few visit it;
Caesar did according to tradition but he, Tacitus and Plinius never wrote about it;
Ysans practice royal sacrifice;
their nine witch-queens work black magic on a desert island...

As Maximus, Duke of Britannia, had said to Gratillonius, it does not sound like a place for a Christian - but Gratillonius is Mithraist.

Changing World Views


In Roma Mater (London, 1989) by Poul and Karen Anderson, Gratillonius, enjoying a sea journey, thanks Mithras for it, then laughs at himself:

"Had the Gods really carved out a strait at the Creation in order that Gaius Valerius Gratillonius could have a day's worth of feeling like the boy he once was?" (pp. 60-61)

Two features of this question are of interest. First, Gratillonius thinks of "Gods," not of "God," in relation to the Creation. Secondly, he really thinks that Earth was created as it is now with the Channel in place between Britannia and Gallia.

Of course, not only have the continents moved and changed since the formation of the Earth but also the Channel separating the island of Britain from the continent of Europe had existed for only a few thousand years before the lifetime of Gratillonius. We know that we live in a world of geographical, geological and cosmic changes but that knowledge has been won in the millennium and a half separating us from Gratillonius. The Andersons take their readers inside the mind of a man of the declining Roman Empire.

Social Decay and Change

In Roma Mater (London, 1989) by Poul and Karen Anderson, Gratillonius' father, Marcus, is of the curial class which is being ruined by enforced casteism, a declining economy and mounting taxes. Some are becoming serfs and one is believed to be hiding among the proletary of Londinium.

That last phrase anticipates and summarises many subsequent centuries. Feudalism grew from the ruins of Empire. Land worked by serfs was held by lords loyal to and protected by greater lords but some serfs fled to towns where they became either bourgeois or proletarian. The former, employing the latter, developed trade and industry, accumulated wealth as money, not land, then challenged the lords. Hence, the scientific revolution, the Protestant Reformation, political revolutions, the Industrial Revolution and the eventual replacement of feudal realms by modern nation-states.

Thus, Marcus' absconding neighbour, despised for hiding in Londinium, is really in the first wave of a very revolutionary future.

Rumors Of Ys

In Roma Mater (London, 1989) by Poul and Karen Anderson, when Gratillonius mentions Ys, his father, Marcus, makes the sign of the cross:

"...the Cross of Light that marked the shield of his warrior God." (p. 58)

The famously rich Croesus also makes this Mithraic sign of the cross in a Time Patrol story.

Marcus comments, " 'That's an uncanny place.' " (p. 58)

So Gratillonius asks him what he really knows about Ys which " '...has been left alone so long that...wild stories...have sprung up.' " (p. 58) The Andersons must explain to the readers why this European city was important in the early Christian period but has since been forgotten except in legend. Part of the answer is that it was secluded even at the time.

Between Gratillonius' question and Marcus' answer there is an entire paragraph, a descriptive passage that serves the usual purposes of such passages but that also sets the scene for a description of this uncanny place:

"Wind roared and whistled. Clouds were appearing over the horizon. Their shadows raced across winter-grey hills..." (p. 58)

We expect to hear about something "wild." Marcus is a Mithraist, was married to a Christian and knows that the Roman state has changed its allegiance from the Olympians to Christ but the Ysans worship Someone or Something else - male, female and elemental, as we will learn soon.

Although Marcus had owned a ship, he had never visited the Armorican port of Ys. He had spoken to three or four captains who had each visited it only once. The Ysans want only trade carried out by themselves and minimal contact with Rome. They are a foederate (ally) but have not had a Roman prefect for maybe two hundred years. Their city is " '...wonderful...of the hundred towers...' " but also has an " '...an otherness.' " (p.58)

We expect Ys to be strange, foreign, alien, as if further away in space and time, not just a port across the Channel from Britannia. It had been prominent, " '...the queen of the Northern seas.' " (p. 59) Gratillonius does not believe the rumors that it is a " '...witch-nest...' " (p. 59)

So we have been intriguingly introduced to "...magical Ys..." where Gratillonius will become both prefect and King (p. 60).

Monday, 22 October 2012

Gratillonius

Here is another connection:

Poul Anderson's The Corridors Of Time features the originals of Theseus and the Minotaur;

Eodan, the hero of Anderson's The Golden Slave, is compared to Theseus when he throws a bull;

Gratillonius, the hero of Poul and Karen Anderson's Roma Mater (London, 1989), revisiting his family home, sees:

"...Theseus overcoming the Minotaur on a wall." (p. 45)

References to a common stock of mythical figures run through several of Anderson's works.

Gratillonius' family has preserved books copied on scrolls, not bound in codices - the latter more like modern books. The scrolls include The Aeneid which he had enjoyed. My current purpose in relearning Latin is to read The Aeneid. Like me, Gratillonius is British and had not learned Greek so I feel some kinship with him but I hope that, if I had lived then, I would neither have practised a men-only religion, Mithraism, nor, later, have converted to Christianity. A philosophical Paganism strikes me as an appropriate perspective from which to contemplate, and hopefully to survive, the Fall of Rome.

At local Moots, Pagan social gatherings, I meet Dianics who sometimes practise women-only rituals but I do not feel inclined to respond by reviving the Mystery of Mithras! That Mystery might have been slightly more durable if it had at least linked up with a comparable female Mystery, making Mithraists' wives less likely to accept Christ and baptise their children.

The Wealth Of The Past

I am grateful to correspondent Sean M Brooks for suggesting that I reread Poul and Karen Andersons' Ys tetralogy shortly after rereading Poul Anderson's The Golden Slave. It is good to spend more time in Anderson's pasts before returning to his futures.

The connections between Anderson's various historical novels are clearer when they are reread successively. The tetralogy is rich in information not only about the by that time Christianised Roman Empire but also about other parts of Europe like the still Pagan Hivernia (Ireland) - the characters include a young man who will later be called St Patrick - and the mythical Ys.

So far, I have focused on what we are told about Irish gods and about the hero's deity, Mithras, the latter an early alternative to Christ. However, other details worthy of attention while rereading are:

the antecedents and history of Ys;
Ysan domestic life and politics;
the nature of the city's gods, the Three, and the role of its Witch-Queens, the Nine;
the various Challengers to Gratillonius' Kingship of Ys and what happens to them;
the network of resistance to Roman rule and Grallon's (Gratillonius') fruitful contact with it;
the aftermath, with Ys destroyed, Rome withdrawing, Christ triumphant, the beginning of the Dark Ages and the seeds of the Middle Ages (Gratillonius lived at the end of an age as we do now).

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Why Mithras Lost

In Roma Mater (London, 1989) by Poul and Karen Anderson, "...the Christians...welcomed women to their services...Could that alone be the reason why Christ was triumphing?" (p. 28)

Too right. Although not that alone. For displaced slaves and others in the cosmopolitan Roman Empire, it had become difficult to maintain:

complicated ritual cleanliness;
divisive dietary laws;
repeated animal sacrifices;
deities and myths associated with particular places (oneness and "omnipresence" were becoming necessary).

Gentiles could be attracted by Jewish monotheism and morality but repelled by circumcision and dietary laws. Paul, preaching monotheism free from Jewish Law, could take interested Gentiles with him when he was expelled from synagogues. One dying and rising god saved all men with a perfect sacrifice which, re-enacted with bread and wine, put aside the need for ritual cleanliness, dietary restrictions and repeated but never fully efficacious blood sacrifices. The sacrifice, death and resurrection had occurred historically, recently, "under Pontius Pilate," thus superseding cyclical, ahistorical resurrections, yet had fulfilled ancient prophecies, thus were divinely ordained.

Jesus crucified is victim, priest and god in one whereas Mithras was still shown killing a bull and his (male) followers still had to find a white bull to slaughter. The Andersons' character Gratillonius refuses to share a meal, even with his military commander, on Mithras' Birthday. The Mithraists were failing, or refusing, to adapt.

Later, Christians adapted further by accepting the Mother of God in Ephesus where Paul had opposed the Mother Goddess. We can see how Mithraism lost and also that it could have won only by becoming less like itself and more like Christianity.

Gods Of Sun And Sea

If we read through Poul Anderson's historical novels and historical fantasy novels in chronological order of fictitious events, which I do think is a good way to read them, then we find that:

Mitra of the Sun was a powerful deity in the prehistoric period of Conan;

about 100 BC, Mithradates the Great had intended to initiate Eodan into the Mystery of the solar deity Mithras but Eodan left Mithradates' service first;

however, several centuries later, the British Roman Centurion Gratillonius had been initiated to the level of Persian;

Gratillonius married the Nine Witch-Queens of Ys, thus becoming King of that fabulous city which, however, was submerged when an enemy opened its sea gates;

meanwhile, Gratillonius' Irish contemporaries referred to merfolk, to the sea god Manandan maqq Leri (later Manannan mac Lir) and to the goddess Brigit;

a few centuries later, Skafloc Elven Fostering saw sea maidens and sunken Ys and Manannan mac Lir told him a story featuring a guest appearance by Brigit to the grandmother of a later witch-queen;

Odin (Eodan deified) at one point masqueraded as the Devil and in different periods interacted with Skafloc, Hrolf Kraki and Hadding;

in the fourteenth century, the last merfolk were exorcised from Europe;

the Devil made deals in the twentieth century;

in works set later than the twentieth century, environments are controlled technologically, not magically - supernatural beings and magical forces have withdrawn or never existed.

This level of interconnection, if we notice it, generates the impression of reading a single long series. I have referred to thirteen volumes, not counting the futuristic sf. The list grew while being written. In fact, the man Eodan in a historical novel and the god Odin in historical fantasy novels do not really belong in the same timeline.

Roma Mater II

Roman Pagans worshiped Jupiter whereas Roman Christians worshiped Christ. Simple? Well, no, a bit more complicated. In Poul and Karen Anderson's Roma Mater (London, 1989), Gratillonius, a British Roman Centurion, worships neither Jupiter nor Christ but Mithras. A Christian calls him " '...pagan...' " but he denies that he worships Jupiter... (p. 23).

It is interesting to read about a group who differentiated themselves from Pagans but who were not Christians either. The Andersons' Note says that little is known about Mithraic doctrines and that "...there is virtually no record..." of Mithraic rites. (p. 480).

We can now differentiate five perspectives on Jupiter. He was:

the chief god, according to Roman Pagans;
a lesser god, according to Mithraists;
a demon, according to Roman Christians and to John Milton in Paradise Lost;
a manifestation of the One God, according to some Hindus (one of "...My million faces...," according to Krishna in the Gita);
non-existent, according to modern Christians and secularists.

That is very comprehensive. It would be a tough assignment to imagine a sixth possibility. Where an answer is uncertain, people seem to have the capacity to formulate and live by every possible answer. The Christian merely tells Gratillonius that he will burn forever if he does not convert. This has to be the vilest doctrine ever imagined by human beings.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Roma Mater I

OK. I am starting to reread The King Of Ys by Poul and Karen Anderson. This will take a long time. Volume I, Roma Mater (London, 1989) - "Mother Rome" - begins:

"At noon upon that Birthday of Mithras..." (p. 13)

The Andersons' Note explains that Mithras' Birthday, 25 December, had been the winter solstice but the latter had moved. (p. 443) Although our family recognizes 25 December with a Christmas Tree, we are also invited to a Pagan friend's house for Yule on the current solstice, 21 December.

I understand that Mithraism emerged from Persian Zoroastrianism in the same sort of way that Christianity emerged from the Abrahamic tradition. However, another Andersonian Note adds, and other sources confirm, that Mithras reached Rome via Persia from the Aryans. That makes his origin considerably older.

I prepare for meditation by invoking a named deity. I do not believe that such beings exist but see no harm in continuing the tradition of our ancestors, as in the Hippocratic Oath. Asking to be led from darkness to light focuses attention on "light." I think that "Indra" is an appropriate name. As the chief Vedic god, he would have been known to Gautama and is mentioned in Buddhist scriptures. However, Mithras, with slight variations of spelling, is comparably ancient and the Andersons adapted a Latin prayer from Kipling's "A Song to Mithras":

" 'Tene Mithra, etiam miles, fidos nostris votis nos!' " (p. 347)

"Mithras, also a soldier, keep us true to our vows!" (p. 481)

Not bad. Although not literally soldiers, we sometimes engage in conflicts and need to practice the karma yoga, nonattached action, taught by Krishna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra. I would occasionally visit the Hindu Temple in Preston, which has images of Krishna and other deities on its ceiling, if I lived nearer to it.

The Demon Of Scattery II

In Poul Anderson's The Demon Of Scattery (New York, 1980), unfamiliar terminology: Vikings call Christians " '...Papas.' " (p. 16) Also, " '...prime-signed...'" Pagans can trade with Christians even though not (yet) baptised. (p. 64) I do not remember noticing these details on first reading.

The book becomes unequivocally a historical fantasy only on page 124 of 193 when Brigit, the goddess, not the saint, appears to Brigit, the nun. As in The Broken Sword, we see both the divine and the nature through which the divine is seen. When the goddess vanishes:

"Where she had stood was merely a patch of green moss, like any other spot on the banks of the pool." (p. 126)

Earlier, the goddess had worn green in the heroine's dream. But, if we start to think that a green patch has been mistaken for a green-clad woman, then next we see a giant serpent attacking the Vikings and killed by lightning (Thor).

In Brigit the nun's second dream in the novel, she sees her mother, who had followed the Old Way, die in child-birth while a "...shadow figure..." says, " '...she served us well.' " (p. 91)

My Pagan friends will like the conclusion of this novel when the former nun accompanies the Viking chief back to Norway and bears his sons and daughters.

Poul Anderson's Time Travel

Poul Anderson's time travel fiction could be collected in two boxed sets, the first to contain three novels and one revised collection, the second to contain the two or four volume Time Patrol Series. However: There Will be Time is one volume of the "Maurai" trilogy; The Dancer From Atlantis is one of three novels set BC and could be collected with them.

That leaves the novel The Corridors Of Time and the collection Past Times. In the former, characters travel from the present to several past periods and one future period and wind up in the Bronze Age. The latter would be maybe six stories ranging from pre-human pasts to a post-human future.

It would make sense to collect these two volumes with the long novel The Boat Of A Million Years which  recounts the life of an immortal from 310 BC into an indefinite future. These three volumes covering "Many Times" would thus form one of three time-related boxed sets, the other two to be called "Time Patrol" and "Timelines."

Friday, 19 October 2012

The Demon Of Scattery I

The Demon Of Scattery (New York, 1980) is written by Poul Anderson and Mildred Downey Broxon and illustrated by Alicia Austin. For convenience, I will refer to it here simply as an Anderson novel. It is one of five closely connected Viking novels.

The Broken Sword, Hrolf Kraki's Saga and War Of The Gods all feature Odin as a character. The Demon Of Scattery, a tale told during a journey undertaken in The Broken Sword, is about the grandfather of the title character of Mother Of Kings. Although Anderson never wrote the projected sequel to The Broken Sword, itself a sequel to an Edda and a Saga, he certainly wrote a lot more around the subject.

The illustrations add considerably to the pleasure of reading The Demon Of Scattery. Early in the novel, a nun captured by Vikings, and lamenting their raid on an Easter Sunday, quotes, " 'Eli, Eli, lamach sabachthani?' " For an extremely powerful use of this quotation in modern science fiction, see Perelandra by CS Lewis.