Today, I’m moving on to the darker side of magic in fantasy. You know, the sort that gives you shivers and speaks of power and things that cannot be contained. I’m fortunate to be joined by author Maria Blackrane as she discusses magic in her upcoming debut, Blood, Fire, and Death.
Hello! I’m Maria, and I’m currently editing my debut novel, Blood, Fire, & Death. It’s a “girl power” dark fantasy that takes place in a militant matriarchal culture in a country called Helvendias. It’s about a main ruling family, the Darkthornes, and their group of close friends who wade through drama, politics, and war to stay on top of their world in some rather morally black ways. The main female lead, Pensilea Belith Darkthorne, is to inherit the crown but her grandmother refuses to pass it to her, which causes conflict between them. It follows her the challenges of her kind of life, her mental and emotional struggles with the world around her, how she navigates through political drama and handles men seeking her for the prize, to father the next queen.
As for the magic system, its very title, Blood, Fire, & Death represents their three main deities. Keldoreth, the god of war and blood, his sister Azaliel, goddess of death who walks through the battlefield and places a flower on the slain warriors before her brother Keldoreth takes them to his Hall. Their mother Mala, is the goddess of the underworld and fire. Much of the story centers around their worship and loyalty to their gods, the practices dedicated to them. Three is a sacred number, symbolic of their three deities. Their use of trident spears as weapons reflects that. It’s also their country’s emblem. Three points are for each deity. They refer to Mala as “the mother of them all,” for they believe her to be the true founder of their country, Helvendias.
There are three priest circles dedicated to the deities. There is a sacred fire, like a portal that leads to her underworld, maintained by a circle of priestesses trained in fire magic. Similar to the Vestal virgins and Zoroastrian fire temples, which I loosely based on them. The purpose of their fire magic is to control the fires and for purification rituals. Also, people can seek Mala’s wisdom by being guided by a priestess through the portal. I based her on Hekate, so she carries a torch and is something of an “enlightener” figure. The main character’s grandmother Thora has fire capabilities because she’s descended from fire witches, only she’s used it for destructive purposes. Her grandchildren, twins Pensilea and Leorin, inherited it from her. She has prophetic dreams of them causing great destruction with it and pissing off the Mother Goddess, so she forbids them to be able to access any kind of magic.
Next are priests who serve Azaliel, the death goddess. They oversee the death rites and guide spirits into the Afterlife or to Keldoreth’s hall for slain warriors. Their practices are more Shamanic, where they act like mediums between the living and the spirit worlds. They assist in ritualistic human sacrifices.
The priests of Keldoreth train in combat magic. They create stealth on the battlefield and the warriors go into a battle meditation while the priests infuse them with blessings of strength. Keldoreth’s aspect is blood, so they perform human sacrifice rituals with captured enemy warriors as blood gifts to him.
The religion worships life and sex and as much as they do blood and death. Sex is a powerful energy. They engage in ritualistic sex for certain celebrations, such as the Festival of the Wolf Goddess, which is a fertility festival. They also believe sexual energy strengthens magic and blessings so they engage in it during some rituals, especially after the blood offerings.
Helvendias refer to the ocean, the Cathian Sea, as the “goddess of life” since it’s their livelihood. Their food source comes from the sea, they extract their medicines and healing oils from seaweed, so they rely heavily on the sea to sustain them. There is a scene in Chapter 1 where my main character, Pensilea, is watching a circle of priests on the beach bless the fishing ships before they take off. It’s a ritual that involves prayers and burning sage around them. They pray to the goddess of life for an abundant catch. But just as they pray for life, they also worship blood and death. I point this dichotomy out in different ways throughout the book. Pensilea watches her priest lover among the circle pray to the goddess of life, while he has also performs human sacrifices. She often ponders the life and death aspects of the religion of her people.
“Pensilea chuckled to herself at the irony of life and death. How those who sanctified battle also praised life. The very priests who sacrificed lives also uttered the sacredness of it. Hands that kill can also give life.”
“How many have died under his blade, bleeding out on a cold stone slab? Yet, there he was, praying to the goddess of life. Oh, death and life.”
How one becomes a priest is that it’s actually a blood type. I refer to people with this blood type to as the Bloodkind, with the ability to access higher senses and powers. One can only inherit it from both parents. At age twelve, they enter an academy and after a few years, they’re evaluated on where their skills and powers lean toward to see which deity they’ll serve. Not all Bloodkind choose to become priests. Why would someone choose not to? Believe it or not, it’s more grueling than fighting school, there’s a lot more commitment involved. Using their powers can take a mental and physical toll on them. They spend a few days in rest and meditation to recover. Those with the blood type who do not become priests are allowed to perform certain rituals, spells, and to access some minor powers. Pensilea can communicate telepathically with crows, for example. They also are stronger and faster with higher senses, which are useful in combat.
Look for Blood, Fire, and Death on October 27th.
About the author:
Maria Blackrane was born in upstate NY under the sign of Gemini some decades ago. She discovered a passion for writing when she was six years old. She started writing stories about the adventures of people and their pets before she moved on to more twisted subjects later on in life. She studied history and anthropology and took creative writing classes as electives. Her favorite genres to read and write are horror, darkfantasy, and grimdark. In her spare time, she’s a horse rider, wine witch, and collects dead things.