1. Aphrodite

Aphrodite I had the opening sentences for Bride of the Stone long before I came to write the book:

The man did not die quickly. He had died in agony, he had died in panic; his face contorted with fear.

Like the entire Circle of Nine series, this book is based very heavily around themes of death and resurrection. I was interested in the relationship between Aphrodite and Adonis (Tammuz), in particular the grisly manner in which Adonis would die to Aphrodite, and his seasonal return.

I knew the sea would feature heavily in Bride, as Aphrodite’s connection to the sea is well-known. New Baffin, where a lot of the action occurs, is a coastal city. Serpents would also feature in some form, because of the legends of Adonis ejaculating and releasing serpents in his sperm. I also used some of the lovely associations around Aphrodite, such as honey, semen, and roses to help me with creating the mood.

I was never happy with the new-age hallmark-card version of Aphrodite. As Dea Dreamer in A Fire in the Shell says, “light a pink candle, and perform a love ritual to the goddess. The old ones deserve to be treated with more respect.”

You only have to look at some of the names that Aphrodite has been called in her lifetime – the Man Slayer, the Dark One, the Black One, the Goddess of Death in Life – to get an inkling of her power. Her own beginnings were violent, gruesome and traumatic. She is a goddess born of severed genitals tossed into water. Born of water which represents feelings, foam and severed genitals. But she is also a goddess of compassion and wisdom.

Much of Bride’s plot came from extensive research. Because many of Aphrodite’s followers were prostitutes, it helped me to plan New Baffin which became a city of whores who frequent its Temples of Pleasure. Characters also formed, such as the pythonesses in the sepulchral caves and the hermaphrodites who were sacred to Aphrodite. Simeon introduced himself here and took over in ways I hadn’t expected.

2. India

At the GangesBride of the Stone also contains scenes set in India. Larry Owens, who changes his name to Lazariel, travels there on a spiritual pilgrimage to the Golden Shakti ashram where he has a traumatic encounter with the guru Ashbud.

Here is a photo of me in the Ganges at Benares, the City of Light, one of the holiest cities in India. Bathing in the Ganges is meant to wipe out lifetimes of bad karma, so it’s worth putting up with the floating body parts.

Quite a few years ago I dyed my hair black, donned a punjabi outfit and went to India on a solo spiritual pilgrimage. I had many traumatic experiences. India is a bitch to travel around. She breaks you, devours you, lifts you to great states of ecstasy one minute and then demolishes you the next. I had people die on me and I spent a lot of my trip in total culture shock.

However, I did have some incredible psychic experiences in India and quite a few miracles occurred – not the least of which was I got out of there alive. I was able to use some of my experiences in India for the part set in that country, but hand on heart – and I swear on my pets’ grave – I never had a sexual experience with the guru whose ashram I visited! I’m sure people who have known me for years read the parts set in India and thought, “Aha! You never told me that!” But I do know people who were exploited in that fashion in ashrams.

3. St Therese of Lisieux

St ThereseSt Therese makes appearances in both Bride of the Stone and A Fire in the Shell. The “little flower” is one of my favourite Catholic saints.
This young Frenchwoman, who died at 24, was unknown in her own lifetime, but has had an almost uncanny appeal to artist as diverse as Edith Piaf, film directors, and modern mystical poets like Thomas Merton. I saw her relics when they came to Sydney in 2002. Veneration of relics is an ancient practice from pagan times.

4. Beelzebub

Beelzebub, Lord of the FliesAlso known as Baal-zebub, “the Prince of Demons” and “The Lord of the Flies”, he is one of the demons which possess Theresa in the ritual at the Blue Mountains. He has been described in different ways. Milton said he was imposing with a wise face. He has been described as having a bloated face, two ducks feet, a lion’s tail, covered in fur and being black, a moor with two horns on his head. He can appear as a calf, a goat, dressed as a bee or a leopard. Flies feature quite heavily in the third book A Fire in the Shell.

5. Stag Man

StagmanA recurring image through the entire series. Deer antlers have often been considered to have magickal powers. The image on the right is from a 16th Century Italian dish. Nearly all countries and cultures celebrate the stag is some fashion, from rock carvings found in Northern Italy, to the Celtic divinity Cernunnos, to the Rama Yana epic of India which mentions a golden antlered deer. Christians considered the Stag a symbol of Christ. Men wearing antlers still perform a dance every year in Staffordshire. Over the years I’ve had quite a few visions of the Stag Man, and now I have a deer antler on my altar to honour this very important divine symbol.

6. Bibliography

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Jean Shinola Bolen M.D, Goddesses in Everywoman, Harper Colophon, 1985

Robin Brigg, Witches and Neighbours, London, Harper Collins, 1996

Sophy Burnham, A Book of Angels, New York, Ballantine, 1990

Joseph Campbell, Creative Mythology: The Masks of God, New York, Penguin Arkana, 1968

Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth, Anchor Doubleday, New York, 1988

Andrew Collins, From the Ashes of Angels, London, Signet, 1966

Andrew Collins, Gods of Eden, London, Headline 1988

Neville Drury, Pan’s Daughter: the Strange World of Rosaleen Norton, Sydney, Collins, 1988

Janet and Stewart Farrar, A Witches Bible, Washington, Phoenix, 1966

Janet and Stewart Farrar, The Witches Goddess, Washington, Phoenix,1995

J.G.Frazer, The Golden Bough, London, Papermac, 1987

Robert Graves, The White Goddess, London, Faber, 1961

Ken Radford, Fire Burn, London, Michael O’ Mara Books, 1989

John Rhys, Celtic Britain, London, Senate, 1904

Asia Shepsut, Journey of the Priestess, London, Aquarian Press, 1993

Montague Summers, A Popular History of Witchcraft, New York, Causeway Books, 1973

Marina Warner, From the Beast to the Blonde, London, Vintage, 1995

Marina Warner, No Go the Bogeyman, London, Vintage, 2000

Jennifer Barker Woolger and Roger J Woolger, The Goddess Within, London, Rider, 1990