Today, March 20, 2015 is a rare day in celestial events. It combines the spring equinox, a “supermoon” and a solar eclipse in northern Europe—a total eclipse in some areas.
The confluence of these three events opens up vast possibilities for the fantasy writer.
When I was writing my first novel, The Bones of the Earth, I created a character who was special in many ways. First, Javor is autistic. (And no, it had nothing to do with being vaccinated—it’s set in the sixth century CE, long before vaccinations.) For magical associations, I decided to make him the seventh son of his family. I also thought it would be cool to have him born on the summer solstice.
Then I decided to open the story on Javor’s sixteenth birthday, the day that he would become a man in his culture. I also decided to begin the tale with a full-moon fertility ritual.
Why? Because the sun and the moon are powerful, central figures in almost every mythology. They’re powerful symbols and give rise to so many tropes, ideas and possibilities for stories.
The sun and moon imbue scenes with portent. A sun-drenched plain, glistening after a rain, or a wind-swept coastline intermittently lit by a full moon obscured by low, scudding clouds. They evoke completely different modes and prepare readers for different kinds of stories.
And think of the power when the full moon and the brightest sun are together in the sky. How could I resist that?
It wasn’t easy
But how do you get the solstice sun and the full moon together? I had to figure out when a full moon happened the night before the summer solstice in central Europe. Oddly enough, it doesn’t seem to recur all that often. Not even every 28 years, because both events drift in the calendar from year to year. Add to that the fact that, to go back to the sixth century, the Dark Age, meant going back to when history recorded according to the Julian calendar. That threw some doubt into the calculation of the date. But I had to start somewhere.
I found an online lunar calculator, which I cannot find now. And according to that, the closest the full moon came to the summer solstice was the year 593 CE, when Maurice was the Roman Emperor in Constantinople.
A new opportunity today
Through history, solar eclipses have been feared even more than comets as omens of doom. The ancient Greeks said it meant the gods were angry.
Of course, solar eclipses can only happen during a new moon, when the moon is not visible from the earth. Today is a new moon that coincides with the closest approach of the moon to the earth, called perigee-syzygy, or more popularly, Supermoon. Today, the moon is a mere 357,000 kilometres away.
Unfortunately, as it’s a new moon, rather than a full moon, the Supermoon won’t be visible to us. But it’s still pretty cool.
And it’s the equinox, when the length of the day equals that of the night. Even today, it signals the beginning of spring, of new life after the dead of winter. Many cultures and mythologies place mother-earth celebrations on or near the equinox. There are traditional celebrations for Astarte, Isis, Cybele and the Virgin Mary. And of course, the Christians will celebrate Easter soon. Many writers have pointed out the similarity of the Easter myth with older myths about the sacrifice of a god or demi-god, who returns to life in the spring.
Putting these three elements together should be an irresistible temptation for a fantasy writer. Combine angry gods, rebirth of a sacrificed child of a god and virgin human, and increased lunar power. It’s a heady mix.
So, here is a chance for readers and writers to get together and suggest a new myth, a taking-off point for a fantasy story. I’ll start with this:
Some celestial gods of something are angry with a group of humans, who have been consorting with a demon of the underworld (who may or may not be evil). This causes the eclipse as a sign that they are about to unleash some kind of vengeance on humanity.
However, as it’s the equinox, the power of the earth-bound gods is waxing, and a god or demon once punished by the celestial gods is about to come back to life.
What happens next? Readers, that’s up to you. Leave a comment below that brings the story one step forward. The next reader should write the next step. We can keep this going as long as we have fun with it.
And for an extra incentive, I’ll give the first five commenters who add to the story a free copy of my fantasy novel, The Bones of the Earth.
Let’s see where this takes us.
- blog, Written Words
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