Why do myths from centuries and even millennia in the past still fascinate us? Why does the quest of the Hero find its way into so many stories? Can these legendary tales still help us find our purpose? The new 6-part documentary series, Myths & Monsters explores these questions and the myths that have endured for countless generations. Check the trailer out here:
The Templars played a part in the history of Among the Shadow‘s origins. This was years ago, when the Knights Templar became the central focus of novels, revisionist history books and films. Suddenly, the medieval Knights were everywhere, from being in control of secret organizations, to being the key to finding lost treasures and solving religious mysteries. A new History Channel drama, Knightfall, may soon bring the Knight Templars back into the limelight (check out the trailer here).
The problem with many of the Templar books is that they are based on fake history , or create their own. Partially thanks to medieval fake news and propaganda spread by the Templar’s enemies, the Templars are easily abused by those with imaginative views of history.
In spite of this onslaught of fake history, the real history has always been largely available. There are the classics Dungeon, Fire and Sword and The Knights Templar, which give a complete picture. Others like God’s Battalions and The Templars and the Shroud of Christ address many of the claims of revisionists.
So how does this apply to my writing? Years ago, during the height of Templar mania, I was reading The Knights Templar, and came to chapter on the battle at the Horns of Hattin. During this battle, the Crusader army had brought with them what they thought was a relic of the True Cross. The battle was a catastrophic loss.
Instantly, though, I had an Inspiration Moment that would from the basis of Among the Shadows: Epic battles, legendary warriors and powerful relics. This would merge with my new found fascination with the fantasy genre and help define historical fantasy.
Ultimately, the Templars and the Battle of Hattin would recede into the background of the novel. The lost relic would remain prominent, as would threads of history — history that I wanted to remain accurate as opposed to how it was being handled by other writers. Of course, being fantasy, the fantastic is dropped against the historic backgrounds. Blurring the lines a bit, but leaving history intact, leave readers wondering what in myth and legend may be hints of forgotten truths.
Maybe the Templar connection will be explored again in future novels, but for now, their history remains part of our own all these centuries later.
Leprechauns, green beer, parties, Irish heritage. Hard to tell that St. Patrick’s Day started as a religious remembrance of one of Christendom’s most famous missionaries. So here is a little history.
Partick’s early days aren’t well known. His father and grandfather were both members of the clergy. Possibly a wealthy family, but surprising to many, they were British. Yes, the patron saint of Ireland isn’t Irish (reminds me of famed British writer C.S. Lewis who was, well, Irish). Nonetheless, the teenage Patrick was kidnapped and became a slave in Ireland for six years. It is there his faith grew, and he would later write that God told him when to flee to the coast, where he escaped back to Britain. There, he would receive another call to return to the land of his captors to minister to them. After over a decade of training in the priesthood, he did just that.
He wasn’t the first to introduce Christianity to Ireland, but is often credited with influencing its explosive growth there. As with most missionaries, it wasn’t easy. His writings attest to being detained and subject of wrath from local rulers. Mostly likely not the “fire and brimstone” variety of preacher, he would sometimes incorporate — or subvert — some of the old Celtic symbols into his mission. He is said to have superimposed the Christian cross onto the Celtic one, making it a recognized Christian symbol to this day.
Many other legends have grown around Patrick, and quite probably, they are simply legends. Such as his use of the shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity or that he banished all snakes from Ireland. Others are quite fantastic, giving Patrick great powers like a wizard. He brought the Magic Fire that the Druids of the great High King Lóegaire could not extinguish. It’s all much more fascinating than green beer.
Even though he’s often referred to as a “saint,” he was never officially canonized, but only declared a saint by popular opinion. Still, the day is observed officially by Catholics, Anglicans, Lutherans and some others. In the long centuries since the Reformation, many churches have abandoned such “feast” or observance days, possibly due to some overstated fear of appearing too much like another denomination or of remembering someone in their history. This, though, would be a mistake.
Out of billions who have come and gone, when one has been remembered by history, one should be encouraged to find out why. Here’s a man who went back to the land of his enslavement, far from home and with little support, to teach and witness. I know, many look at those who want to share what they believe as some sort of oppression. Those are often the same people who claim to believe in the freedom of speech. Those debates aside, he also worked among the slaves and poor, one of the first to oppose the kind of slavery he himself had experienced.
Yes, this Tuesday can be used to remember Irish heritage and its influence on the world. There’s nothing wrong with that, especially if you are Irish (if you aren’t, don’t you have your own day? Oh, laugh already). St. Patrick’s Day has always been a bit less about its namesake than it should. So take a minute and think about why this man is still known so many centuries later. History remembers only those terrible and those great. Patrick was the latter and we should ask this:
What does it take, whether history notes you or not, to leave a positive mark upon the world?
And perhaps, just perhaps, not all in myth is fiction…
“Now that’s an odd question,” you ask. “Giants?”
Well, I haven’t posted on ancient history in awhile, so let me wander for a bit. The thing is, many of the old county histories detail the findings of giant human bones throughout the country. There have been hoaxes, so many are apt to discard all accounts. Why would history after history write about something nonexistent? These books aren’t full of fantastic tales, but report local history matter-of-factly.
Then we never hear about the giants again.
Suspicious? Perhaps. Why no discoveries since? A cover-up or were there simply not that many of them? Were they just inspired by the tall-tale-telling of the 19th Century? Was inserting giants into histories just a passing fad?
The tone and widely spread accounts seem to argue for authenticity in the face of no proof of hoaxing. So were they all misidentifications of mammoth or other animal bones, as some have suggested? Or perhaps we are just reading our understanding of the past into history.
Without actual bones, this is mostly an exercise in various views trying to disprove the other. Perhaps if some of the more extreme views have not clouded the issue, and others weren’t so quick to dismiss things that didn’t fit the status quo, maybe it wouldn’t be such a fringe topic.
Ultimately, we should ask, legends often have kernels of truth, so why not history itself?
Brian Godawa has been writing a fascinating fantasy series that takes place in the ancient Near East. It began with Noah Primeval which was rooted in the question, “What was going on in the world that was so horrible that mankind needed destroyed?” The series continued with Enoch Primordial (actually a prequel), which centered around the enigmatic Enoch. A man barely mentioned in the biblical accounts, but because he never died, and the other books attributed to him recount many a strange event, he has long been a person of high speculation.
Godawa now steps out from filling in between the lines of the biblical accounts with Gilgamesh Immortal. Taking off from events in the Noah episode, the tale of Gilgamesh provides a link to storie Godawa has next that is centered around Babel. One can’t study Near Wast cultures in a vacuum, so bringing in the most famous character from that region’s legends that isn’t chronicled in the biblical accounts was a perfect idea. Gilgamesh, a king and warrior of Mesopotamia, rules his empire with an iron fist. He has everything. Then he encounters a Wild Man that is his equal in many ways, and better in others. He begins to realize there has to be something more.
He wants immortality.
There begins his quest to conquer the weak and silent gods of old. These fallen angels had largely been destroyed and contained during the Great Flood, but he seeks out their remnant. It’s a journey full of adventure and death, while one of the most sinister of these “gods” is about to re-emerge and try to take Gilgamesh’s kingdom.
This book, along with the others, have Godawa’s trademark fast-paced storytelling. Their combination of fantasy and history is a largely original take on the people and places they are centered around. He also draws on the elusive references to Nephilim, Watchers and “sons of god” in the bible and other writings. For centuries, people have debated exactly what these beings were. Essentially Godawa is saying, “Maybe these references aren’t so mysterious. Maybe all of the ancient legends of battling gods aren’t just myth. Perhaps there are kernels of truth in them. Maybe there is a reason that the ancient cultures believed in them so much.”
It’s an intriguing premise. Perhaps it sounds irrational in our supposedly advanced world. But it’s perfectly reasonable to ask why did the ancient world pay so much credence to such things? Was it all just because of active imaginations? Or have we left behind part of our history we chose to forget?
Godawa’s series not only entertains, it asks such questions. And it gives us one possible imagining of the answers. It could have happened like this.
Early this year, we learned of a possible location of Atlantis in Spain. For centuries, the elusive legend told to us by Plato has been studied, researched and ridiculed by countless people. Does Atlantis have any roots in history? It has become almost a taboo subject because so many people have incorporated it into their wild theories — everything from aliens to some super-advanced civilization flying planes and spaceships.
Gavin Menzies has now entered the fray with his new book, The Lost Empire of Atlantis. His main theory – Atlantis was based on the destroyed Minoan civilization – is not new. What is new is his detailed effort of showing the scope of this lost empire and why its destruction could very well be the basis for Atlantis.
It’s an intriguing idea. The destruction of the Minoans was part of a series of catastrophes that ended the bronze age. To some extent the turmoil of the times erased much of the past into myth. We know the ancients weren’t primitives and disasters did change the course of history more than once. And was it the Minoans that mined the “missing” copper in Michigan? Another age-old mystery.
We may never know the answers for sure, but history may surprise us yet and teach us a thing or two (like nature can reach out and nuke us anytime it wants).
Not as interesting as the scrolls themselves, but the identity of the Dead Sea Scroll authors is “possibly solved.”
Then there are supposedly Yeti nests in Siberia. Of course, these are the same people who claimed to have found “‘indisputable proof’ of the Yeti” last month which some have suggested was hoaxed.
Lost islands off Australia. Nice to see there is still “lost” stuff out there to be found. There’s a lot of mystery out there in the Pacific, home of the legandary Lemuria (the Pacific version of Atlantis). Maybe we’ll look into this a little more later.
If you have ever read the mythologies of past cultures, they are full of wondrous and unbelievable tales of long-lost races, battling gods and supernatural conflicts.
It is often said, however, that myth and legend have tidbits of truth. The problem is that many people will mine myth looking for something they supports their preconceived notion. Often those notions are reinterpreting the past through the glasses of the present.
There is a popular image of an Egyptian hieroglyph bandied about that supposedly depicts electricity in the ancient world. The images are often poor reproductions of the real thing. Close-up photos of the actual panels quickly shows the Egyptians aren’t holding light-bulbs connected to a power system. There are many mysteries in the past, but when researchers do such poor presentation in their “evidence,” scholars are quickly turned off even if there are other valid theories presented.
Uncovering the lost technologies and knowledge of the ancients is a popular, and valid, field of research, but it is pockmarked by the strange. Sure, even in the mainstream, theories come and go and acceptance of new ideas often goes through an inordinate level of scrutiny. But when people see spaceships and aliens in ancient carvings, is that what is really there, or are we seeing what we want to see?
Sometimes our skepticism makes us miss the trees in the forest. The Viking sagas and their tales of journeys to the new world were once thought myth. Not anymore. That doesn’t mean cyclops or ogres once existed, but the Troy of Homer’s Odyssey certainly did. How can we tell the difference? Compare an account of Columbus’ voyage next to Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. Most anyone will see the difference. Is it always that clear? Usually it is or you will at least be able to pull out the fantastical from the potentially real.
We shouldn’t accept every theory without reservation. By the same token, it would be a mistake to exclude all fantastic happenings from history simply because we don’t understand them.
Studying history, afterall, is a thinking enterprise.
Researchers announced today a possible location for the fabled Atlantis in Spain. This region, either off the coast or on land, has long been a frontrunner in Atlantis locations. Among others, E.M. Whishaw’s Atlantis in Spain argued for it in 1928. I haven’t read it, but I bet it will be selling out soon. As with any ancient legend, there’s probably bits of truth in it. Since so many fringe and mystical folks have co-opted Atlantis, many scholars won’t touch it with a ten foot pole. Perhaps in Spain the truth will finally be uncovered.
The Bible is silent on most of Jesus’ years before he began his ministry. Many theories, including more than a few strange ones, have been floated about the “missing years.” These include travels to just about everywhere in the world. Some apocryphal accounts claim to have details of his childhood, though they date long after his time (Anne Rice did conjure up an interesting novel that was in part based on these stories). One of the more plausible legends has Jesus visiting Britain with his “uncle” Joseph of Arimathea. Local legends claim Jesus was there, but the debate centers around how old those legends are and if they were created to attract pilgrims. Nevertheless, it is an interesting possibility. See Glyn S. Lewis’ book for more (even he wanders into some strange speculations at times).