Friday, 29 March 2019

What really is Magic?

What do you think of when you hear the word Magic?  Do you think of a magician pulling a rabbit out of a hat, or maybe you prefer a more sophisticated illusionist like David Copperfield?  Maybe you think of Merlin the Magician from the Arthurian legend, or Harry Potter’s fun world of magic.  You might even think of New Age subjects like Wicca or Shamanism, perhaps even esoteric and occult teachings about angels, demons or our own inherent abilities to create “magic.”

Whatever people may think of magic, it has been around for many thousands of years, and in all countries and cultures of the world.  It is probably the only thing that is as wide-spread and universal throughout mankind's history as religion and the concept of God.  (In fact, some might even say that they are one and the same).

So, if the subject of Magic is so all-pervasive throughout mankind's existence, then what exactly is Magic?  In the most basic sense, magic is something that cannot be explained by science or technology, and this is the foundation of everything we call magic today.

Imagine life not so many centuries ago, when people had no knowledge or understanding of bacteria, for example.  An air or water-borne contagion infects many people, but no one can explain how they got sick.  It is easy to grasp for the nearest plausible explanation, such as the ugly old crone down the road who despises people and therefore cast a spell to make them sick.  

Other people living close to nature came to believe that spirits guided, helped or even attacked them, and performing certain rituals could either appease these spirits or call upon them for some assistance.   There are many examples of how the idea of something supernatural and magical came to be the popular explanation for events that were not understood in the past.

Image by Enrique Meseguer on Pixabay

Myths, folklores and tales from every country, race and group of people are full of superstitions, belief in the supernatural and in magic. 

But then magic began to be deliberately practiced by an organized group of people, and magic became a belief system like religion.  The foremost example of this is Ancient Egypt, and it spread to the rest of the ancient world such as Greece, Persia, Mesopotamia and beyond.  Such organized magic made belief in such things like protection amulets, curses and supernatural powers a common and everyday thing:  maybe just like we take for granted that lights come on when we flick a switch, or we see an image on our screens, without understanding the exact nature of electricity or the functions of a microchip.

But did the magic of the past really work, like our lights and computers work in our day?  For magic and the people who performed it to flourish for centuries, if not even millennia down to our day, there must have been something to it.  Or was it because there was no other knowledge available to replace the belief in magic, according to what the priests and other practitioners of magic were saying?

Image by Enrique Meseguer on Pixabay

Magic did not seem to fade away as civilizations advanced, but rather seemed to become more established in the age of books, science and medicine.  The scientists, physicists and doctors of the Middle Ages were alchemists who studied astrology and believed they could turn lead to gold.  Some of their books still exist today, and are full of conjurations (spells) and mystical symbolism. 

The confusing language and codes were meant to protect the knowledge of performing magic from being misused or abused by people unworthy of wielding it, and this led to secret societies, initiations and masters who trained apprentices in the works of magic.

This led to the concept of hidden knowledge and activity, which is the meaning of the word occult, while the word  esoteric means something is known to only a select, elite few people.

Thanks to the Internet and an open society nowadays, most of these occult and esoteric traditions are well known, and no doubt gaining many new members all the time.  You’ve probably heard of the main ones such as Jewish mysticism called The Kabbalah or Qabalah, Hermeticism, The Rosicrucians and even the Freemasons whose traditions go back to Ancient Egypt.

The general teaching of these secret societies that is made public in many books is the

path to personal enlightenment, empowering each person to have control of one’s life and destiny.   But another much less-known theory about the purpose of these societies is that ancient knowledge must be kept secret and only revealed to a chosen few.  This ancient knowledge could contain science and technology not commonly known today, and which has been suppressed over millennia.

Whatever the case may be, magic is as popular as ever, judging by the endless variety of Fantasy books and films as well as the ever-growing range of non-fiction books about ancient magic, New Age themes, mysticism, esoteric societies and even the occult. 

But why is this so?  Do people just need an escape?   Is it an alternative to belief in a deity?  Is magic just another form of religion?  Or is there really something to it?  After all, research and study of the Paranormal has been undertaken by governments and other serious establishments, and the latest books on the subject are bestsellers!

Real Magic: Ancient Wisdom, Modern Science, and a Guide to the Secret Power of the Universe

Are these some of the ancient secrets that have been carefully guarded down the ages?  
Like many people, I have been fascinated by magic and the paranormal since my childhood, and I have based my Fantasy series on some research into ancient magic.  For instance, books 2 & 3 are set in Ancient Egypt, and Rhuna, The Star Child deals with the use of amulets, curses and illnesses believed to be performed by people with special powers.

The fifth book in the series, Rhuna, The Snow Dreamer features Tibetan lamas with supernormal abilities, as described in another popular book:

Supernormal: Science, Yoga, and the Evidence for Extraordinary Psychic Abilities

Thursday, 24 January 2019

Red-haired Mummies around the World

Most of us immediately think of Ancient Egypt when we hear the word “mummies”, but did you know that mummies have also been found in countries far removed from Egypt, such as China and Peru?  Not only that, but many of these mummies are Caucasians with blonde or red hair!

At first it was assumed that the mummies found in Egypt were the direct ancestors of the Egyptians living there today, namely Arabs.  But advances in science and technology have now revealed that many mummies of Ancient Egypt are Caucasian or white-skinned with blueish eyes and, in many cases, blonde or even reddish hair.  Even the most famous mummy, the young Pharaoh Tutankhamen, was European, according to modern DNA testing!

Many other mummies found in Egypt may not need DNA testing to prove their connection to Europeans because their red hair and Caucasian features already testify to their race.  Even the mummy of another famous Pharaoh, namely Ramesses II, whose body has been well preserved, revealed red hair pigments, according to this scientific article:

Mummy of Ramesses II
It is also of interest, however, that some experts believe that the famous enigma, the Sphinx,  has negroid features, and among the Caucasian mummies, many with African heritage have also been discovered.  
This is not really surprising when you consider that Egypt is actually part of the African continent, and that African nations from Nubia and Ethiopia merely had to travel down the Nile to reach Egypt.  Furthermore, it is worth considering how people migrated throughout history, and that like in our modern history, some nations travelled further across the world than others, establishing colonies or simply exploring uncharted lands.
A painting from the tomb of Seti I shows that Ancient Egypt had a variety of races
With this in mind, the discovery of red-haired mummies in China and Peru begins to make more sense.  The mummies of China and Peru show mummifying techniques similar to those used in Ancient Egypt, and since many of them also feature reddish hair and European features, we can assume a definite link between them.  

The red-haired mummies found in China are especially interesting because they have been well-preserved in the dry desert-like conditions of the Tarim Basin in far north-western China.  These mummies wore colourful clothes and in particular, woollen tartans – much like our modern-day Celts!   

Some books go into great detail about the mummies found in China:

The Tarim Mummies: Ancient China and the Mystery of the Earliest Peoples from the West

This book, The Mummies of Urumchi, details the woollen tartan clothes of the mummies:

The enigma of red-haired people in ancient history continues, with the discovery of a tall, female Caucasian red-haired mummy in Mammoth Caves, Kentucky...
 ...and reaches even further to small islands such as the Canary Islands off the coast of Morocco...
...and even as far as Easter Island where the famous statues have been restored to show the “top-knot” hairstyle made from reddish stone.  The statues’ features are also Caucasian.  When Captain Cook first visited Easter Island in the 1770s,  he recorded that he saw many people with fair skin and reddish hair living among darker, brown-skinned people. 

 There is also evidence of red-haired people among the Maori, the native people of New Zealand, according to this article:
We might never know all the historical facts exactly, but in the meantime the theories surrounding an ancient European race with reddish hair has been inspiration for my Fantasy series.  Based on the legend of Atlantis, blended with New Age themes, the main characters in the RHUNA series are white-skinned people, some with red hair.  Although Rhuna is a Polynesian woman from Easter Island, she mingles with people of many races and backgrounds as she travels the ancient world.  

The second and third books are set in Ancient Egypt, and in the third book Rhuna, The Star Child, the European and Arab races living in Ancient Egypt mix with the African nations from the south, and Rhuna interacts with the beautiful African Queen Uxbana.

Friday, 23 November 2018

Two Authors Under One Roof

The two authors under one roof I’m writing about today are my husband and I; Bobby and Barbara Underwood.   You might be wondering about the dynamics of two authors married to each other, so I’m about to tell you!  First of all, let me explain how we met:

In this age of internet and email connecting everyone across the globe, it’s easier than ever to find someone who is your perfect match, and that’s how it was with Bobby and me.  Bobby was living in California and actively writing amazon reviews, but what he really wanted to do was pursue a writing career.   Having a full-time job made that dream seem almost impossible, so writing reviews for classic films and books was the next best thing.

And I was living in Sydney, Australia, where I had already written my first novel but didn’t know what to do next.  So I was keeping busy by writing amazon reviews for films and books, too, and that’s how we connected – on  Back then it was easy to find like-minded reviewers and contact them, so that’s when Bobby and I began corresponding by email and the occasional ‘snail-mail’ letters and cards.

That’s how Bobby ended up coming to Australia where we were married, and later moved from Sydney to a country town in NSW.  These changed circumstances allowed us to have much more free time to finally pursue our dreams.   Bobby was finally able to put down on paper a life time of stories he had inside, while I worked on a sequel to my first novel (Rhuna, Keeper of Wisdom).  Bobby was writing about a dozen books to just one of mine!

His books also cover more genres, such as Mystery and Detective, Science Fiction and Dystopian, Romantic Fantasy, Pulp, Noir and Western while my books are part of one large fantasy series.

Although our books are quite different, we still have the many fundamentals of writing in common, such as going with the creative moods or dealing with discouragement and ‘down days’.  We know when to give each other the necessary peace and space to write a while, and then balance the rest of the day’s activities around our writing periods. 

One of those other activities is taking our dog, Cisco, to the park at least twice a day, which is actually a very good break mentally, not to mention keeping us physically fit!  While doing these other things, we often talk about what we are writing at the time, or plan to write next.  Other times we discuss reviews we’ve received for our books, as well as other books we’ve enjoyed reading, discussing the aspects we like best and can learn from.

Bobby and Cisco in the park by the river
Being Independent Authors, we don’t have deadlines to meet, and this is a good thing we feel, because we don’t have any pressure which would make us rush our work.  Quality is definitely more important than speed or quantity of books!  On the other hand, we still give ourselves a realistic goal to meet, as well as a bit of structure to the planning of our books and their marketing.  When a book is finished, we often proofread each other’s work, but after that we go our own ways where publishing and marketing are concerned.  For example, all of Bobby’s books are available exclusively on amazon, at the discount price of 99cents and on Kindle Unlimited.

Bobby and I are not competitive, but I can imagine that other couples in the same profession might be, and in their case it can be a good thing.  In our case, we usually inspire and encourage each other, and Bobby’s success with many sales, particular his Western series, all year so far make me happy rather than envious or jealous.  

So this is our story - of two authors under one roof.

Friday, 2 November 2018

Ancient Mysteries in the South Pacific

Quite a few years ago now, I had the privilege of travelling to a small group of islands in the South Pacific called Tonga.  I was living in Sydney at the time, and trips from the east coast of Australia to the southern Pacific were not too expensive.  Western Samoa, Cook Islands and even Tahiti had also been in my travel plans back then, but Tonga was special.
That’s because I had been reading Thor Heyerdahl’s books about his adventures across the world’s oceans in search of megalithic ruins and other evidence of a technologically advanced civilization that explored the entire world in ancient times.  This subject had fascinated me since childhood, and I began to read up on it more seriously when I was in my twenties. 
Among Heyerdahl’s explorations of the Pacific, including the famous Easter Island, he also discovered similar giant stone statues in the Marquesas Islands, then continued on to Tahiti.  In passing, he mentioned the remains of pyramids on the main island of Tonga, and that’s why this small island was on my radar.
So off I went on a short vacation, making sure I had maps and arrangements to see the stone ruins on Tonga.   In my mind’s eye, I saw the pictures I had seen in many books on the subject of megalithic ruins, such as this one of a wall on Easter Island:

It is often compared to the walls found in Cusco, as well as many other places across Central and South America.  This is just one example Heyerdahl - and now many others - used to support the theory that ancient megalith builders crossed the Pacific and other oceans and established colonies or new settlements using the same building techniques.
So imagine the thrill when I first saw a complex of several different-sized pyramid bases, or truncated pyramids, on the main island of Tonga!  The stone blocks fit closely together like the Easter Island wall, albeit showing some signs of erosion – perhaps due to the tropical climate and occasional flooding.

Megalithic buildings in Tonga
Not only that, but in another area on this small island of Tonga is a “mini Stonehenge” complete with a “Hele Stone” (a single stone strategically placed to use as a sighting stone in astronomical measurements).   Tonga has a single arch, as if taken out of the famous Stonehenge complex, but the straight lines of the massive stone blocks are identical.

The "Hele Stone" on Tonga
These historic sites in Tonga have a local version given to tourists, such as the story of a Polynesian king who authorized the 'gate' to be built, but other historians and scientists believe the origins of the megaliths are much older and were made by other people.  

Personally, I think it's too much of a coincidence that ancient stone structures are identical or very similar all across the world.  And if a civilization had the technology to make evenly cut and sized stone blocks for building purposes, then one can assume they also had the knowledge and ability to make ocean-crossing vessels.

Apart from Heyerdahl's books, David Hatcher Childress has also written extensively about his explorations of ancient megalithic structures around the world, and one book is just about Tonga:

I have used some of this information, along with my own personal travel experiences around the Pacific, in my Fantasy-Fiction series, RHUNA.   The heroine named Rhuna spent her childhood on Easter Island until she learned about the Atlantis-like civilization beyond the horizon.  She then spends her adolescence on Tonga (called Mediz in my story) before making another long sea voyage to the land of Atlan...
Part Two in Rhuna, Keeper of Wisdom is set in "Mediz" (Tonga), while the short story, The Summer Sojourn is set entirely there, and details Rhuna's adolescent years.

Friday, 3 August 2018

The Writing Process: Some Advice and How to Unwind

My writing process is fairly straight-forward, combining practical common sense with a bit of unbridled creative passion!  First of all, I glean all the information on my next topic (eg Rhuna in Ancient Egypt) from my stash of historical, New Age, spiritual, pseudoscientific books and take notes of the points I like.  From about 50 such points, however, I might only end up using half or less, but that’s fine.  In the beginning, I don’t have a clear idea of what I’m going to use, but if I have a nice long list of ideas/topics/facts/myths to choose from, then it’s easier to grab one as I’m going along.

Before I start writing, I formulate a general plot in my head.  Since this a series, I have a definite starting point (the cliff-hanger from the last book) and end point (the cliff-hanger leading to the next book).   I have some definite ideas what will happen between both points; not just in terms of events but how characters will be affected.  

Once I have a fairly solid base line to follow, I allow myself to develop and add things as I go along, and this often happens almost by itself from Part II onwards.  Often I have Part One clearly defined in my mind before I get started, and this helps me lay the groundwork for the rest of the book, such as setting the scene, raising the new issues or problems Rhuna will be facing, and creating some suspense as to what will happen.
Usually I write to story in sequence, but at times I’ve been overwhelmed by new ideas or a description of feelings or events that happen further along in the story.  That’s when I let the creativity flow freely, and later I connect those scenes with the ones written in chronological order.

Some advice I’d gladly pass on to new and aspiring authors are these:
·        Be yourself.  Don’t try to write in the style of a popular author, or even your favourite author.  You have to find your own inner voice and then let it shine forth.  

·        Every word you write should come from your heart and soul – not your brain dictating how you think it should read.  If you do this, readers will instinctively feel it and have an emotional response to your book.

·        Remember that books are like people: with some you immediately ‘click’; with others you just can’t gel.  This goes for the books you read yourself, but also what to remember when readers don’t like your book.  Not everyone is going to like it, just as not everyone is going to like you personally.  That’s just the way it is.

·        If you are being yourself in your creation, then continue to be true to yourself.  Keep writing and growing while doing the necessary promotion and marketing of your books, and your readership will grow:  slowly but surely.

Being creative can be more mentally exhausting that you realize, so it’s important to make yourself have a break before you feel the brain fog or mental block developing.  In my case, I have another creative outlet, namely art: sketching, oil painting, acrylic, watercolour, still life, portraits or whatever grabs my fancy.  I meet with other artists at the local Art Society’s studio once a week, and this is already a great little break when I’ve been writing or thinking a lot about a book.  Other times, I feel I need a week or two away from writing and just do paintings and sketches around home.

When I’m out of creative gusto, I play games: jigsaw puzzles (on the computer nowadays – much easier!) some hidden object mystery games and Super City on Facebook.  Other times just going to the park with hubby and the dog is enough unwinding for a few hours.  And believe it or not, doing some necessary chores and housework can also help to unwind mentally just by giving you some distance from the work you were focussed on.

Sunday, 20 May 2018

Who Were the White Gods of Ancient History?

You’ve probably come across them and didn’t know it; either at school, in books or even TV documentaries. Even pop culture pays tribute to them in shows such as “Ancient Aliens” and the Ancient Astronaut concept.  Who or what were the White Gods?  They are the people that history, legends and folk stories all over the world honoured, feared or worshipped throughout time.

South American cultures such as the Mayans and Aztecs gave the White Gods names such as Quetzalcoatl, Viracocha and Kukulkan, and they were described as having white skin, blue eyes and a red beard.  In Peru, mummies with red hair have been found, and in many other countries there are stories of white-skinned, red or fair-haired people with blue eyes.   The stories say that these tall, fair people brought technology, laws and the arts.

When the Spanish conquistadors first arrived in South America, they were greeted as the returning White Gods, and even Captain James Cook who explored the Pacific, including Hawaii and Easter Island, was greeted as the returning “white god” of their legends.   

The famous statues on Easter Island feature a red stone on their heads which seems to indicate that the statues represent red-haired people.  The statues also have Caucasian features.

 Folk tales and legends usually have a firm base in reality, and it is believed by many that a Caucasian race (predominantly with reddish hair and blue eyes) brought advanced culture and technology to the Americas, the Pacific Islands and other lands, which led to them being venerated as gods or superhuman, superior beings.
This theory fits the legend of Atlantis: a highly advanced civilization that existed in "pre-history", found in writings by Plato when discussing Ancient Egypt.  Historians have been puzzled by the technology and art of Ancient Egypt because it seemed to appear abruptly on the world scene, not develop gradually.  Maybe the Atlanteans or White Gods brought their knowledge to Egypt?

I have used these ideas about legendary "White Gods" and Atlanteans in my Fantasy Fiction series, RHUNA: A Quest for Ancient Wisdom..  While Rhuna is only part Caucasian, she nevertheless inherits the Atlantean culture, and her adventures take her across the ancient world to Ancient Egypt, then Ancient India and beyond.