Gaye Mack’s Blog

WELCOME TO THE ENGLISH HISTORICAL FICTION AUTHORS’ ‘MAIN CHARACTER’ BLOG HOP!

Posted on by Gaye Mack in Ancient Legends of Great Britain, Gaye's England, Scotland & Wales, Writer's Work Leave a comment

This post is a departure from what you might be expecting, as I’ve been I have been tagged by fellow English Historical Fiction author, Mark Patton, to take part in a “Main Characters” blog hop.  The concept of ‘blog hops’ between authors is to introduce aspects of our works to readers and of course to support our writing colleagues across the ethers. For this ‘hop’ the  idea is to introduce a protagonist from a published or anticipated to be published novel. I’m currently working on the third novel of my historical fiction series which takes place across 12th, 13th and 21st century lines, mainly in Great Britain…although the current work in progress is built upon the esoteric story of the Cathars, the Gnostic sect persecuted by the Inquisition in 13th c southern France.  If you’ve been following my blog, you’ll have seen earlier posts on this gentle group of Christians labeled as heretics by Rome who met a fiery end at Montsegur on March 16, 1244.  

 

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Possible layout of fortress at Montsegur 1244

Photography©Gaye F. Mack, Inc.

 

 Each of my books is grounded in actual historical places, people and events around which I then build fictional characters and story. The participating authors in the blog hop are asked to address seven questions about their chosen protagonist.  My second book which is featured in this ‘hop’  is written in ‘alternating narrative’ which means that similar to the works of Diana Gabaldron and MJ Rose, the main protagonist is subject to images and influences from a past life–this said I’m going to introduce both of my female protagonists to you!

1. What is the name of your character, and is he or she a fictional or a historical person? 

In the 12th c portions of this bookEdana Morggon is the main protagonist who then re-appears as Dr. Dana Morgan in the 21st century.  Both women are completely fictional although, the characters they meet in both time frames are very much historical.

2. When and where is the story set? 

The primary historical setting is Glastonbury Abbey in England’s west country, just before the Great Fire of 1184 as well as ruins that remain in the 21st century. For those who have never been to Glastonbury, it’s one of those places that abounds in extraordinarily deep history, legend and myth.  King Arthur, Joseph of Armithea, Edward I, Henry II and The Goddess, each figure heavily into Glastonbury’s magic.  However, in 1184 and 2010, my protagonists are faced with events that involve the fire(and its suspicious origins), political ambition, greed and psychological dysfunction… all having to do with mystical secrets believed to have been embedded within symbols placed in the floor of the abbey’s ‘Holy of Holies’.

Scan0008Partial Ruins of Glastonbury Abbey

Photography©Gaye F. Mack, Inc.

3. What should we know about the character? 

12th c Lady Edana Morggon is a wealthy widow who accompanied her father and greedy, abusive husband to the Holy Land. Following the deaths of both men on crusade, Edana was imprisoned but surprisingly rescued by an unusual Sufi named Ghali.  Ghali for reasons only known to himself and Edana, enlists desert mystics to educate her in sacred arts and medicine before they both return to her estate in England.  Edana is a woman unusual for her time as she’s fierce in personality, smart, gifted and fairly self-sufficient…but she also harbors secrets.

21st c Dr. Dana Morgan is  a wealthy, University of Chicago historical archaeologist with expertise in ancient scripts, but who also possesses an inherited, although unacknowledged, gift of psychic sensitivities.  As the 21st c opens, her archaeologist husband of five years has suddenly died. Overtaken by grief, Dana retreats to the safe haven of her favorite aunt, Lady Fredi Morgan at her Oxfordshire estate.  When Dana is introduced to two historical archaeologists from Oxford University, she unwittingly becomes embroiled in 900 year old Glastonbury mysteries that have resurfaced and threaten her life.  Equally distressing, Dana comes face to face with  a past life through Edana Morggon. However predictably, as a scientist, she resists acknowledging such a possibility exists.

GLASTONBURY FLOORPhotography courtesy of Karen Pfiefer

 

4. What is the main conflict? What messes up your character’s life? 

Historically, Dana has categorized her feelings into intellectual exercises as a means of protection ever since the sudden death of her parents when she was fifteen. However, when she learns that her husband had a secret life which ended in suicide rather than murder, she struggles to come to terms with heart centered emotions she can’t control, her sense of failure in judgement and the recognition of her inherited psychic sensitivities.  As Glastonbury’s 12th century story resurfaces in 2010 through events that threaten her life, Dana is forced to deal with these unresolved aspects of herself.

5. What is the personal goal of your character? 

Dana has to learn to accept who she really is as well as putting trust in relationships, especially with men.  In addition, with the help of Edana Morggon, she begins to recognize that the veil between worlds is thin and can transmute to reveal universal truths.

6. Is there a working title for this novel, and can we read more about it? 

The book is entitled, A Conspiracy of Ravens’.  You can read more about it under the ‘Historical Fiction’ link on my full website: http://gayemack.com or under the link for ‘clients’ on http://globallionmanagement.com

7. When can we expect the book to be published?

 ‘A Conspiracy of Ravens’ and its predecessor, A Murder of Crows’ are currently represented by Peter Miller, CEO-Global Lion Intellectual Property Management, who is actively seeking a home for them.

 

 

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WHAT OR WHO WAS BEHIND GLASTONBURY ABBEY’S GREAT FIRE OF 1184?

Posted on by Gaye Mack in Ancient Legends of Great Britain, Gaye's England, Scotland & Wales, Writer's Work Leave a comment

The Great Fire of 1184, which all but destroyed Britain’s oldest site of Christianity,Glastonbury Abbey,  is legendary.  For 900 years, myth and speculation have flourished as to the cause of this catastrophic event.  The majority speculation put forth by historians is that unusual winds on the morning of May 25, 1184 were responsible, causing an entry curtain to the ‘Holy of Holies’ in the ‘Ecclesia Vestuta’ (old church) to catch fire from burning candles.  Regardless of the cause, the initial sparks of flame combined with the high winds took the famous abbey to the ground in a matter of hours; it’s precious documents destroyed along with its treasures melted by heat and countless graves of monks, abbots and saints.

 However, when I was researching this event for my historical mystery, ‘A Conspiracy of Ravens’, I discovered Adam of Damerham.  Adam was a 12th century monk who wrote a history of the abbey and where the Glastonbury fire is concerned, Adam had an entirely different theory as to its cause.   Following the death of the beloved Abbot Robert in 1178, King Henry II assigned the position of ‘Custodian’ to Peter D’Marcya Cluniac monk who had some kind of relationship to Henry.  Despite the desires of the Glastonbury monks for Henry to name a proper abbot, the king stalled.  With no abbot in place it gave the wily monarch direct access to Glastonbury’s wealthy treasury, a resource which Henry needed to finance his wars with the French. Thus, as a compromise, he named D’Marcy to oversee the Glastonbury community.

 Unfortunately Peter proved to be very unpopular for a variety of reasons.  He nearly drove the abbey into the ground financially, was relentlessly diabolical in his scheming to manipulate his way to the abbot’s chair, not to mention suspicions that Peter  ‘compressed’ (as in eliminated) certain monks who were obstacles to achieving this goal. As an interim solution and effort to appease the monks, Henry then appointed Hugh of Avalon(who would later become Hugh of Lincoln, the most revered saint after Becket) to ‘supervise’ D’Marcy.  Things did not go well with this arrangement either.

 By December of 1183, the hatred of D’Marcy was beyond rampant. Further to his other machinations, Peter lusted after the secret behind the zodiacal floor in the abbey’s ‘Holy of Holies, believed to contain Christianity’s deepest mystical mysteries.  In one final scheme to endear the monks to his cause of obtaining the ‘abbot’s chair’, D’Marcy, his mental state now suspect, planned a ‘faux mass’ on Christmas Eve in the ‘Ecclesia Vestuta.’  This blasphemous act was the last straw with the Glastonbury community and one can only imagine how the monks reacted.   Adam of Damerham speculates that in retaliation,  D’Marcy set fire to the abbey.  Interestingly, historians note that while he survived the fire, shortly afterwards D’Marcy died from ‘unknown causes.’

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REMAINS OF THE GREAT ABBEY AT GLASTONBURY

Photograpy©Gaye F. Mack, Inc.

A Conspiracy of Ravens is the second book in my trilogy, ‘Flight Through Time’, represented by Peter Miller, Global Lion Literary Management. ‘A Flight of Doves’ is now in production 

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THE MYTH OF THE CATHAR TREASURE

Posted on by Gaye Mack in Ancient Legends of Great Britain, Gaye's England, Scotland & Wales, Writer's Work 2 Comments

 

History, especially ancient desert and medieval history, abounds with myths and legends such as Hermes and the Philosopher’s Stone, Glastonbury Abbey, the Holy Grail, Merlin, King Arthur and the treasure of the Templars, just to name a few…and then there is the legend of the Cathar Treasure. 

In my previous post wherein I introduced the subject of this medieval religious sect, I noted their propensity for eschewing trappings of the mundane world.  This rejection was based on their belief that the physical world and their incarnation in it was not a creation of God but rather a creation of Satan. In adopting this belief, the dedicated Cathars, known as Parfaits, not only rejected the idea of procreation, but they also did not partake in the consumption of any food which was a result of procreation.  As material acquisitions for their own needs were kept to a bare minimum, it begs the question, ‘how did the legend of a Cathar Treasure arise’?  

According to author and Cathar historian, Zoe Oldenburg, by the end of the twelfth century, the Cathar movement of the Languedoc had amassed a considerable fortune.  To begin with, the majority of Parfaits were men of substance who turned over their property to the church.  In addition, there were also credentes, ‘rank and file’ members, who left legacies of their entire fortunes to the church. And, while living, many credentes made generous donations of cash, land, houses and even chateaux.  While the Parfaits never broke their vow of poverty according to Oldenburg, they accepted all donations which were then put to the best use in the interests of the church.

 As a Community, the Cathars were known for providing support to the poor and those in need in the cities and surrounding countryside.  They maintained communes which incorporated schools, monasteries and hospitals.  Furthermore they founded working craft guilds, particularly in the art of weaving which not only provided product but also functioned as an educational training ground for the young and ‘novitiates.’ 

While such amassing of property and goods certainly would be considered a ‘treasure,’ references to ‘The Cathar Treasure’ often imply that it was something of far more importance and legend such as the Holy Grail… which of course has never been found.  Speculative circumstances surrounding the Treasure’s disappearance often tell of it having been hidden some two months prior to the fiery execution of  two hundred-plus Parfaits on March, 1244 at Montseguer. Possessing the secret of the Treasure’s hiding place, three Parfaits and another man, possibly a mountain guide, escaped the flames on the night of March 16 by repelling down the side of Montsegur’s pog.   The men then hid in caves protecting the secret and were never discovered.

 Oldenburg surmises that the Cathar cache consisted of goods for trading as well as gold and silver coins; this certainly makes sense given the atmosphere of persecution and brutality of the times.  However, perhaps even more precious to the Cathars was that for them, the Treasure consisted of their most sacred books and writings which were critical in helping maintain allegiance to their dogma and tradition.  This possibility makes even more sense as literature in the early middle ages onward, was considered as precious as gold in many cases.  Whatever the truth is, to this day the location and substance of the Cathars’ Treasure remains a mystery.

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 Caves with Secrets

 Photography©Gaye F. Mack, Inc.

 

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AUTHOR NANCY BILYEAU REVEALS HOW DARTFORD PRIORY ESCAPED HENRY VIII’S RAMPAGE

Posted on by Gaye Mack in Ancient Legends of Great Britain, Worth the Read, Writer's Work 1 Comment

While I’m  drawn more to England’s 12th & 13th centuries, it’s nearly impossible to ignore King Henry VIII’s murderous assault on  his kingdom’s religious houses.  His rampage was so vile and its impact on the course of history so indelible, it boggles the mind to remember that Henry’s zeal was sparked by the love for a scheming woman and let’s be frank, his greed for the booty held in the monastic treasuries!  One particularly brutal example is found in my post detailing  the brutal murder of wealthy Glastonbury Abbey’s last abbot, Richard Whiting in 1539.  

However this said, admittedly I’ve never given much thought about what happened to the Tudor nunneries!  Were the women as brutally treated?  Fortunately , Nancy Bilyeau, historical fiction author of The Crown and  newly released sequel, The Chalice, has.  In a recent article,  Nancy discusses how she came to create her books with particular attention to the historical fate of  Dartford Priory, England’s only Dominican house which was located in the county of Kent.  Thus, I’m happy to welcome Nancy as my guest by posting a portion of her fascinating article which can be read in its entirety as it appears in the Catholic Herald

I chose the sole house of Dominican Sisters in England, Dartford Priory, as the home of my protagonist, the fictional Sister Joanna Stafford. A priory of “strict discipline and plain living,” it was founded with great care by Edward III in the 1350s. The women who took vows at Dartford were from the gentry or nobility. There was even one princess: Bridget of York, the youngest daughter of Edward IV. Daily life was spent praying, singing, studying, gardening, sewing and teaching local girls to read. Twice a week the Sisters distributed alms to the local poor. The prioresses were learned and formidable women. Elizabeth Cressner, who died in 1537, oversaw her house of nuns with tremendous vigor for 50 years.

When the king’s commissioners visited Dartford Priory they did not find a house in decay. In 1535, the Valor Ecclesiasticus put the net annual revenue of the monastery at a robust £380 9s ½d. The number of nuns had not declined over the last century, but held at a steady number. I have not been able to find any contemporary reports finding fault with Dartford.

Yet in 1539 Prioress Joan Vane “surrendered” the priory to the king and it was demolished. Why? Most likely because closure was inevitable – by that time almost every other abbey had been dissolved – and those who resisted faced royal savagery. Abbot Richard Whiting, 81, refused to surrender Glastonbury in 1539. He was arrested, imprisoned in the Tower of London, convicted of treason and dragged on a hurdle to the top of Glastonbury Tor. There, he was hanged, drawn and quartered, his severed head nailed to the gate of the deserted abbey. You can certainly see why most of the monastics submitted to the will of the king.

After the nuns of Dartford were evicted from their home, they received small pensions. Although the stereotype of a medieval nun is someone who is pressured to take vows, some of the Dominican Sisters continued to live together in groups because they did not want to abandon their vocations.

When Henry VIII’s oldest daughter, Mary, took the throne, she granted the Dominican nuns’ request to re-establish their order in Dartford and seven nuns moved back in. But this restoration only lasted as long as Mary lived. Elizabeth’s officials ordered the nuns to leave. They did so, joining some of the last remaining Sisters of Syon Abbey. Mary’s widower, King Philip, quietly paid for the group to leave England for the Netherlands. They went from convent to convent, suffering poverty and ill health. In Paul Lee’s book, Nunneries, Learning and Spirituality in Late Medieval English Society, a letter from someone who saw the Dartford nuns in 1561 in a convent on the island of Zeeland says: “These are the most elderly of all the religious and the most infirm, and it seems that they are more than half dead.” But they hung on for quite a bit longer. The last of the Dartford nuns died in Bruges in 1585.

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St. Michael’s Tower where Glastonbury’s last abbot, Richard Whiting, was murdered by Henry VIII’s Men  in 1539

Photography©Gaye F. Mack

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IS ST. PATRICK BURIED AT GLASTONBURY ABBEY?

Posted on by Gaye Mack in Ancient Legends of Great Britain, Writer's Work 1 Comment

Was St. Patrick ever at Glastonbury Abbey in the early 5th Century?  Legend says he was but then, as is the case of many of ancient stories, we’ll never know for sure.  There is however, a document known as the Charter of St. Patrick believed to have been written by Glastonbury monks in the late 13th century.  The exact purpose isn’t clear, but it does purportedly narrate in his own words,  the account of Patrick’s arrival at Glastonbury in 430 A.D.  Clearly the gap in time makes the authenticity of the Charter’s narrative  suspect and begs the question, why would the  monks produce such a document 900 years after the fact?  One explanation could be that it was a PR stunt.

Leading up to the catastrophic fire of 1184 which took Britain’s wealthiest abbey to ground, Glastonbury was in a state of political chaos, the circumstances which I write about in my historical mystery, A Conspiracy of Ravens(represented by Peter Miller-unpublished).  However, despite King Henry II’s support in the abbey’s rebuilding immediately following the fire, down the road the monks needed to sustain pilgrim traffic in order to keep the coffers topped up.

Along with the Arthurian legends which include the re-internment of Arthur and Guinevere at the foot of a black marble high altar during the state visit of Edward I and Eleanor of Castile in 1278,  it didn’t hurt to add St. Patrick into the mix.  Nevertheless, whether legend, myth or fact, allegedly St. Patrick’s bones are believed to have been buried under the floor of the small chapel shrine that bears his name and stands among Glastonbury’s remains–a claim the Irish understandably, strongly contest.

The Charter of St. Patrick(excerpt)

In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. I Patrick, the humble servant of God, in the year of His Incarnation 430, was sent into Ireland by the most holy Pope Celestine, and by God’s grace converted the Irish to the way of truth; and, when I had established them in the Catholic faith, at length I returned to Britain, and, as I believe, by the guidance of God, who is the life and the way, I chanced upon the isle of Ynsgytrin, wherein I found a place holy and ancient, chosen and sanctified by God in honour of Mary the pure Virgin, the Mother of God: and there I found certain brethren imbued with the rudiments of the Catholic faith, and of pious conversation, who were successors of the disciples of St Phagan and St Deruvian, whose names for the merit of their lives I verily believe are written in heaven: and because the righteous shall be in everlasting remembrance, since tenderly I loved those brethren, I have thought good to record their names in this my writing.

And they are these: Brumban, Hyregaan, Brenwal, Wencreth, Bamtonmeweng, Adelwalred, Lothor, Wellias, Breden, Swelwes, Hin Loernius, and another Hin. These men, being of noble birth and wishing to crown their nobleness with deeds of faith, had chosen to lead a bermit’s life ; and when I found them meek and gentle, I chose to be in low estate with them, rather than to dwell in kings’ palaces. And since we were all of one heart and one mind, we chose to dwell together, and eat and drink in common, and sleep in the same house.

And so they set me, though unwilling, at their head: for indeed I was not worthy to unloose the latchet of their shoes. And, when we were thus leading the monastic life according to the pattern of the approved fathers, the brothers showed me writings of St Phagan and St Deruvian, wherein it was contained that twelve disciples of St Philip and St James had built that Old Church in honour of our Patroness aforesaid, instructed thereto by the blessed archangel Gabriel.

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Remains of one of the giant piers of Glastonbury’s Majorum Ecclesia 

Photography©Gaye F. Mack, Inc.

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