Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Celtic Origins of a Modern YA Quest

My first book series, The Akasha Chronicles, incorporates ancient Celtic mythology and magic into a story about a modern, teenage girl. I’ve been asked how I researched the Celtic aspects of the series and came up with the magical elements. Here’s the story of how The Akasha Chronicles acquired its Celtic flavor.

When I first conceived of Emily’s House (Book 1 of the Akasha Chronicles), I was not a writer yet! It was during hypnosis that was supposed to help me lose my baby weight that I had a vision of a golden armlet hovering over rolling green fields. (BTW, hypnosis does not help you to lose weight. Apparently, sitting in a chair, half asleep does nothing to boost your metabolism ;-) I couldn’t get that golden arm bracelet out of my mind!

I began scouring the Internet for pictures of the golden object I’d seen. Before long, I came across a photo of a torc – the golden armlet! And from there, I began reading all that I could find about ancient Ireland and the pre-Christian Celts.
Though I wasn’t actively writing fiction at that time, the more I researched, the more a story began to develop in my head. My research about ancient Ireland led me to Brighid, an ancient Goddess.

I came across a story of an order of women that were the keepers of the flame of the goddess Brighid (pronounced BREE – id). The story goes that these Druid women worshipped the goddess Brighid, whose symbol is a column of fire. It is said that no men were allowed into their cloister, and any men who ventured into their grove were cursed. I loved this idea of women with powerful magic.

Interestingly, once Christianity displaced Druids on the Emerald Isle, the group of women who once worshipped the goddess, Brighid, became a group of Catholic nuns who honored the Saint Bridget. They kept that sacred flame going for many generations. But during the Reformation, it was decided that tending to the fire was too pagan and it was ordered that the flame be extinguished.

I had the opportunity to visit Kildare, Ireland and the ancient foundations of the original abbey still exist – the place where the ancient flame was kept alive! It is one of the oldest, continuously used worship sites in all of Ireland, and has a legacy as a sacred site dating back into the Celtic times as well. In 1993 in the Market Square in Kildare, the fire of Brighid was re-lit by Mary Teresa Cullen, the then leader of the Brigidine sisters. Since then, the Brigidine Sisters in Kildare have tended the flame. Here is a photo of the ancient foundation at St. Brigid’s Cathedral in Kildare.
The story of the goddess Brighid and the order of women who worshipped her inspired me greatly. I took the ancient Celtic mythology – and the story of the women who kept her flame alive – and tweaked it to fit my needs. When you read Emily’s House, you’ll recognize The Order of Brighid as a reference to this ancient order rumored to have existed prior to the modern Christian times in Ireland.

In addition to hundreds of pages of Internet articles and Wikipedia pages, I also read a lot of books that inspired the Celtic aspects of the series. Here are a few of them:

Despite pages and pages of research and information, much of the Celtic mythos in my novels is of my own imagination – a melding of some of the juicy facts mixed with my own creations.

For example, my character Lianhan Sidhe (pronounced SHEE) is based on a mythical Celtic creature. In the ancient myths, Lianhan Sidhe is a beautiful fairy with a dreadful power. It is said that most men cannot refuse her, a beautiful muse who offered inspiration but at a price – most men who become her lover go mad and die prematurely.

I tweaked the myth quite a bit in Emily’s House to create my own version of Lianhan Sidhe, a beautiful – but deadly – creature.

And you may have heard of a Banshee. I came across research that suggested that Bian Sidhe (Banshee) and Lianhan Sidhe were sisters. Two beautiful, but potentially deadly, faerie sisters of ancient Ireland. I had to use that in my story!

But the Celtic influence didn’t stop at just the ancient backstory portion of the book. I wanted to use it in the modern story as well. Much has been written about the connection between Druidic practices and philosophy, and ancient Vedic tradition of the Brahmins. West meets East. The Vedic tradition of India can be traced back over 10,000 years. During my research, I found the parallels between the ancient philosophies of India and the more modern Celtic thought fascinating. The combination of the two philosophies led to the chapters where Emily receives training in the Netherworld.

I spent over three years reading books, articles and Wikipedia pages while writing Emily’s House! Despite countless pages of research, a small fraction of what I learned was used. As you read Emily’s House and Emily’s Trial, you may wonder what is real and what did the author create? 


  1. I love the story of how much research you did, and what interesting things you found out, before you wrote your books. It's awful that the nasty Reformists made them extinguish the flame, though, isn't it? :P

    1. Yes, Lexa, it was sad to learn that women were forced to put out a flame they had maintained in honor of the divine feminine for generations. But amazing that it has been rekindled!


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