Wednesday, February 4, 2015

BOOK SPOTLIGHT: "Once A Goddess (Brigid Trilogy #1)" by Sheila R. Lamb

For the sake of peace, Brigid of the supernatural Túatha de Danann enters into an arranged marriage with Bres, the prince of the enemy, and casts aside her own hopes for happiness. Set in a time when myths were reality, Once a Goddess brings the legend of the Ireland’s magical Túatha dé Danann to life…


Follow along with the Once a Goddess virtual book tour for more exciting content!


The following are three small sections from the first few pages of Once a Goddess. Below are footnotes in which the author explains some of her ideas, intentions, and other personal insights!


I told no one of this knowledge of Bres. When I discovered we would marry, I wanted to determine his character for myself [1]. He did not know that I, Brigid, watched him. Destined to be his wife, part of a treaty meant to end the summer of fighting between our tribes. His communion with the land was his first encounter with the Danann mysteries. I did nothing to dissuade his experience and believed this one-sided meeting would give me some bit of power over him on the day we wed [2].


My earliest incarnation was as a daughter of the Túatha dé Danann. We were the people of Danu, of Eiru, Éire, Erin and Ireland. As Éire’s earliest inhabitants, we were elevated once to the status of gods and goddesses. We were revered after our downfall, remembered, worshiped, until we faded into legends of “fairy folk.” [3] Yet, as in all myths, there lies a bit of truth. The truth is this: Dagda was my father and Macha, my mother. We were one with the green and mist-filled island. Our duty, the purpose of the Túatha dé Danann existence, was to protect and cherish the island. We lived alongside the towering oaks. We scaled stony outcrops to search for eggs hidden in sea birds’ nests as we looked upon the waves pounding on the shore below. Our homes were beneath the emerald hillsides, closer to the earth, the source of our strength.


Our isolation enabled us to learn skills which most have now forgotten. We were able to shape shift. With our minds, we learned to communicate with each other without spoken words. Our intuition developed more keenly [4]. Of course, skills such as shape shifting took generations to learn. It was a constant daily practice and way of life.


The summer of battles was brief, but intense. The Fomorians, the newcomers, desired to own our land and were willing to kill for it. [5] Our people died, blood soaked into the soil and still the Elders refused to use our weapons, the full force of our magic that surely would have defeated them. They were determined to keep our connection to the elements a secret. They decided the best course of action would be peace. And the way to peace, they told me, was to ally with the enemy. The surest way to an alliance was marriage. [6]


“He is called Bres.” Father said when the fighting ended. “He is the next chieftain of the Fomorian tribe.” The valley had been empty for days. Both sides suffered losses; neither side could declare victory. But we couldn’t survive a prolonged war with the Fomorians. I sat at the edge of the Western Sea and tried to turn to stone so I would not hear my awful fate. As stone, I could allow the waves to beat against me and drown out my father’s inevitable words. “Brigid, this marriage will bring peace to our tribe.”


Insights from author Sheila R. Lamb:

[1] I wanted the reader and Brigid to see Bres as he was - even just for a moment. If he was completely horrible, I don’t think Brigid would have married him. Despite all of his complications, Bres simply wants to find where he belongs. That opening scene shows one of his few moments of peace.


[2] Brigid has been fighting Bres and his tribe, literally, on the battlefield. And now, suddenly, all of that fighting ability, her power, is taken away from her, taken by her own people. The Danann ask her: what’s more important - the good of the tribe or one woman’s happiness? Brigid has no control over her situation, so in this scene, she’s searching for any bit of knowledge or information that may help her. Anything to keep a little bit of her power, her control of her life. She sees in Bres his quieter, more vulnerable side. He does seem to connect to the land as the Danann are able to do, so how can she use that knowledge to influence him? Knowing this commonality, can she work it to her advantage?


[3] The Danann battled the Fir Bolg, the Fomorian, and, lastly, the Milesians, or as we know today, the Celts (originally from Iberia - Spain/Portugal). It was Amergin of the Milesians who led the Danann underground so that his tribe could take the land. When the Tuatha de Danann went underground they became known over time as fairies. One of the best historical novels about this final battle is Bard by Morgan Llywelyn (one of my favorite authors and definitely an influence on my writing). The best research site I used for all three books was CELT, Corpus of Electronic Texts.


[4] I had a hard time choosing fantasy elements at all. I’m more of a historical fiction reader, rather than fantasy. But these aspects are part of the mythology and later, part of druid belief. In the battle against the Milesians, the Danann brought down the mists to confuse the ships at sea. So, they had powers to work with natural elements. It seems only right that the early inhabitants of Ireland should be able to connect with and shift into the land, especially given what happens to them in the end. Ironically, they are pushed so far underground they could not return.


[5] The Fomorians are based on the mythology and legends I researched in Lady Gregory’s stories, CELT documents, and other general texts about Irish history. Not to sound completely unoriginal, but I didn’t have to make up a lot of the Danann story. I took what myth was there and fictionalized it. I did add in their search for metals for weapon making - anything to contrast them with these smaller, fairy-like people they tried to conquer.


[6] The various sources do mention marriage specifically. For example, “The marriage of Brigid to Bres was essentially an alliance to bring peace between two warring factions.”

I think in this particular case, the bringing together of two tribal leaders needs a formal ceremony, such as marriage. Anam cara (“soul friend”), in Once a Goddess, is something the Túatha dé Danann believed, but not necessarily the Fomorians. The Fomorians were a much more structured, logical, pragmatic group. No time for soul searching or magic. They were builders and conquerors. Even if the Danann didn’t have the concept of marriage, I think the formalized ceremony would have been necessary in this arrangement and peace treaty.

The Danann do have marriage because of their belief in soul mates. It’s saying unequivocally, this person is who I am destined to be with, no matter what. Later, a character named Eiru’s past is exposed, and the unbreakable bond of soul mates is why her secret was hidden for so long. The fact that her tribe insisted Brigid marry someone who is not her soul mate is unheard of. It shows how desperate they were for peace.


Sheila Lamb received an MFA in Creative Writing from Queens University of Charlotte and an M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction from George Mason University. Her stories have earned Pushcart and storySouth Million Writers Award nominations and can be found, along with a few photographs, here. She’s also the journal editor for Santa Fe Writers Project. Sheila has traveled throughout Ireland and participated in the Achill Archaeology Field School. She loves Irish history, family genealogy, and is easily distracted by primary source documents. She lives, teaches, and writes in the mountains of Virginia. Once a Goddess is the first book in the Brigid trilogy.

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