Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Gods and Goddesses - Guest Post by Elizabeth Aston + Giveaway!

Erin's note: Readers, I am chuffed (yeah, there's no good American word for chuffed) to have author Elizabeth Aston guest-posting at Pagan Spirits today. She's here to talk about her favorite ancient goddesses and gods, and how they inspire her fiction. She came with goodies to give away. She's the author of six volumes of historical fiction based on one of my most recent obsessions, Pride and Prejudice. She also wrote the contemporary novel Writing Jane Austen. Without further ado, here's Elizabeth:

Ever since I first read the Greek myths as a child, I’ve been hooked. What a bunch they are, those Olympians and all the lesser hangers on. Raw power, raw emotion, raw sex, raw everything. But subtle with it, tricky, untrustworthy.

Cross them at your peril, mortals.

And the stories are so fabulous (literally). You can hear them again and again, in their original form and as they crop up in various versions in literature and opera and paintings and ballet and goodness knows where, and never grow tired of them.

They’re archetypes, of course, and archetypes are great for writers. Here’s Ares, god of war, angry, hot blooded, wanting to kill. Here’s Hera, the nagging wife, but the one you want beside you when you’re in labour. Hestia, goddess of the hearth, offering you a warm drink and checking that the guest room is just right. Hermes, made of quicksilver, carrying messages, up to all kinds of sly dealings. Surly Poseidon, drowning men for fun and causing the earth to shake, Hades, guarding the under world, Hecate, goddess of the moon, Artemis, virgin goddess of the hunt, great Athene, who lives on in those glorious Power Marys of Piero della Francesca. Zeus, taking his pleasure where he wishes (and he wishes often); austere, dangerous Apollo…

And just think what they got up to, all that time on their hands, nectar to drink, immortality. Sex, for one thing. Lots of sex, much of it extremely dodgy, but they certainly knew how to enjoy themselves.

Do I believe in them? Of course not, how could I, modern woman as I am? However, I do have a Janus pot at my front door, to honour the god of the threshold, and a Medusa pot (her snaky glare deters burglars). And which of us hasn’t heard the call of the gods, at one time or another?

A favourite of mine is Dionysus. Not the fat, rackety Bacchus, but the glowing young man with a leopard skin. He’s trouble, he stirs everything up, but without him, life would be dull, dull, dull. He’s the god of wine, and he brings liberation, anarchy, upheaval and the unexpected. Dionysus is the Lord of the Dance, and that’s why, in Unholy Harmonies, my character Issur, another name for Dionysus, is a dancer, a classically trained dancer, who arrives as a dancing telegram in the house of Sadie, an abandoned wife, and proceeds to carry out a devastatingly sensuous strip tease.

He transforms Sadie’s life - that’s what he does, wakes mortals up to a sense of what life is truly about. Just as wine loosens our tongues and spirits and morals, so does this great god, the twelfth Olympian, bring chaos and ecstasy into our lives. And, just as Dionysus led the Maenads in a terrible dance that led to Pentheus's violent death, so, in the English village of Unthrang, Issur takes to the hills with his followers.

He’s a transforming god, and the other reason I like him is the wonderful love story associated with him. He came across Ariadne, stranded on a beach on Naxos by the faithless Theseus, and fell passionately in love with her. When she died, he set her among the stars, and her wedding diadem became the seven stars of the constellation Corona Borealis.

Who is the female counterpart of Dionysus, with his beauty and his wildness and the danger when you go too far? It has to be Aphrodite. We know her as the goddess of love, but she’s also a goddess of pleasure and merriment and delight. Aphrodite's attendants are Paidia (Play), Eudaimonia (Happiness), Pandaisia (Banquets), Pannychis (Parties & Night Revels), and Antheia (Floral Decoration). How’s that for fun? Yet, like Dionysus, she has a darker side, leading men to war and madness, as she did when she gave Helen to Paris and brought about the Trojan war.

Every novelist honours Aphrodite. Whether it’s a sensuous romance, with hot sex on every other page, or a coy romance ending in no more than a kiss, a deep and thoughtful tale of misery, an action-packed thriller - Aphrodite will be there, you can bet on it. Centre stage, or lurking deliciously in the shadows, she makes her presence known, and we instinctively look for her in everything we read.

Dionysus and Aphrodite are a great double act. They are about pleasure but also like all the gods, are not to be trifled with. Mortals do well not to thwart them or ignore their sinister powers - and that's true of all the gods and goddesses: Take care! But whether in the writer’s soul or out dancing in the hills, in an elegant drawing room or delighting in the pleasures of the bed, there they are, this troublesome and awe-inspiring duo, bringing joy and danger into all our lives, just as long as we hear them calling and let them in.

Links for Elizabeth Aston:
Site and Blog:

The Giveaway:

Please comment below your favorite god or goddesses and enter to win a copy of Children of Chance, the prequel of the Mountjoy series. In one week, I'll pick a winner of this ebook! Available in any ebook format.

And for the Giveaway Grand Prize: Everyone who comments is eligible to win a lovely hematite bracelet and earrings seen here (; I'll pick a lucky winner mid-October and can ship anywhere in the world. Good luck!


AnnA said...

THanks for the contest sent over by Erin on Gather

Sugar said...

I adore me some Athena! she is the goddess of arts and crafts after all lol!
thanks for the giveaway!!

Erin O'Riordan said...

Anna, thanks for stopping by.

Sugar, excellent choice!

velvet said...

Thanks for making this contest available. I wouldn't have heard about it if it hadn't been for Erin.

Loclynn said...

Mercury is my heart, he is in the third place neither fully man nor woman he transcends the boundaries and forge's new roads to new realities. But he also reminds us that all separations are illusions.

Erin O'Riordan said...

Velvet, thanks so much for stopping by.

Loclynn, great answer.

I find it very hard to choose one favorite deity. I love Shiva, Egypt's lion-headed Sekhmet, Ireland's Brigit and Cernunnos, and Persephone.

Karysa Faire said...

I always say a little mantra/chant before going out on a date:

Aphrodite, come be with me
Please share with me
Your loving being.

Aphrodite, come be with me.
Show me how to love

Beth Barany said...

Lizzy asked me to post this: "We'll pick a winner next Wednesday. Also, please be sure to leave your email address is you'd like to be entered in this week's giveaway and in the Grand Prize Giveaway for the Hematite earrings and bracelet."

She said she's enjoying everyone's comments, and says Thanks!

shah wharton said...

Medusa - She's a mean woman who takes no shit!! ;D And she never has a bad hair-day - What not to love there?

Great post and comps too. I'm in.

Stop by mine- I also have a e-book giveaway and guest post from Shea Berkeley - author of The Marked One.

Have a great weekend Erin - oh come link up this post too!

Shah, x

shah wharton said... - Shah from wordsinsync comp entry!


Laurie said...

I'll go with Zeus....He's the boss, afterall. LOL
I'm stopping by from Shah's Weekend Creative Blog Hop.
Laurie's Thoughts & Reviews

Erin O'Riordan said...

Karysa, that's beautiful!

Beth, thank you.

Shah, thank you for entering and commenting. I linked up to the Weekend Creative Blog Hop.

Laurie, another excellent choice. There's a mythology anthology edited by Sharukh Husain with an awesome story about Zeus.

Beth Barany said...

Erin! Elizabeth is having blogger issues still and so asked me to send her note:

"Hi Erin

Thank you so much for having me on your blog!

I picked a (random) winner for the book giveaway - Sugar. She'll be getting a copy of Children of Chance once we know her preferred format. [Elizabeth is emailing the winner!]

And of course all the commenters get entered for the grand prize at the end of the tour of a hematite bracelet and earrings.


Thanks for having Elizabeth, Erin! I enjoyed her post!

Erin O'Riordan said...

Thank you, Beth, for being the moderator.

I was so glad to have Elizabeth. This is a great post. I hope she can come back another time to talk about Jane Austen.

Sugar, congratulations!

If you commented but didn't leave an e-mail address, and want to be considered for the grand prize drawing, please leave a comment with your address, or send it to me privately at