inkwell.vue.493 : Mary Mackey, The Village of Bones
permalink #0 of 93: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Fri 21 Oct 16 17:29
    
Inkwell welcomes New York Times bestselling author Mary Mackey for a
discussion of her novel, "The Village of Bones: Sabalah's Tale," a
prequel to her Earthsong series of novels. Here's a summary of the
novel from Amazon: "In 4386 B.C., a young priestess named Sabalah
conceives a magical child with a mysterious stranger named Arash.
Sabalah names the child Marrah. This child will save the
Goddess-worshiping people of Europe from nomad invaders called
Beastmen, but only if her mother can keep her alive long enough to
grow up. Warned in a vision of the coming invasion, Sabalah flees
west with Arash to save her baby daughter, only to discover that she
is running into the arms of her worst enemies. In the dark forests
of northern Europe, other humanlike species left over from the Ice
Age still exist."
  
inkwell.vue.493 : Mary Mackey, The Village of Bones
permalink #1 of 93: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Fri 21 Oct 16 17:30
    
Mary has written fourteen novels, some of which have appeared on the
New York Times and San Francisco Chronicle Bestseller Lists. She is
also the author of seven volumes of poetry including Sugar Zone
winner of the 2012 PEN Oakland Josephine Miles Award for Literary
Excellence. Mackey’s novels have been translated into twelve
languages including Japanese, Russian, Hebrew, Greek, and Finnish.
Her poems have been praised by Wendell Berry, Jane Hirshfield, Marge
Piercy, and Dennis Nurkse for their beauty, precision, originality,
and extraordinary range. Garrison Keillor has featured her poetry
four times on The Writer’s Almanac. Also a screenwriter, she has
sold feature-length scripts to Warner Brothers as well as to
independent film companies. Mackey sometimes writes comedy under her
pen name “Kate Clemens.” She has a B.A. from Harvard College and a
Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from The University of Michigan and
is related through her father’s family to Mark Twain. At present,
she lives in northern California with her husband Angus Wright. 

Leading the interview is writer-editor Phil Catalfo, who since 1989
has covered a wide range of topics, including parenting, health,
ecology, spirituality, popular culture, and more, for a host of
national magazines,including Parenting, Sesame Street Parents, New
Age Journal, Body+Soul, Whole Earth Review, Tricycle, Wondertime,
Natural Health, and others. From 1998 to 2005, he was a Senior
Editor at Yoga Journal; from January 2006 through June 2007, he was
the Editor of Acoustic Guitar magazine. He is the author of one book
("Raising Spiritual Children in a Material World," 1997) and
coauthor of another ("The Whole Parenting Guide," 1999). Phil has
been an active member of The WELL since 1986 and has previously been
both an interviewer and an interviewee here in Inkwell.
  
inkwell.vue.493 : Mary Mackey, The Village of Bones
permalink #2 of 93: Phil Catalfo (philcat) Sat 22 Oct 16 10:07
    
Thanks, Jon! And welcome, everyone. I've been looking forward to
this conversation for a couple of months--well, I could say for
20-plus years, since I read the first novel Mary published in this
series, _The Year the Horses Came_. I've enjoyed reading the novels
and discussing them with Mary, and I know that a swell conversation
is in the offing for us here. We have a few other WELLbeings who
have been reading the book and will be joining us, but let me get
the ball rolling with an initial question or two.

I'll start with what is perhaps a very obvious question: Mary, how
did you get interested in the subject of the matristic cultures of
neolithic Europe? You'd already published many novels (and books of
poetry), including at least one (_The Last Warrior Queen_) that
could be said to have some thematic (if not historical) relationship
to these novels, before you began working on the Earthsong series.
When and where did you first encounter evidence of the peace-loving,
Goddess-worshipping cultures that existed in Europe some 6,000 years
ago, and how did you arrive at the vision for the series that
ultimately led you to create these four novels?
  
inkwell.vue.493 : Mary Mackey, The Village of Bones
permalink #3 of 93: Mary Mackey (mm) Sun 23 Oct 16 09:57
    

Hello, everyone. I'm happy to be back here in Inkwell.vue, one of my
favorite places for great conversations.

My journey to the Goddess-worshiping cultures of Old Europe began
many years ago in the early 70's when I read a book by Erich
Neumann, one of Jung's disciples, entitled "The Great Mother." At
the same time, I was in a newly-formed writing group with Susan
Griffin, Charlene Spretnak, Sandy Boucher, and Valerie Miner. All of
us except Charlene were writing novels or short stories. Charlene
was writing the very first chapters of what would become her classic
"Lost Goddesses of Early Greece." This was an exciting time. Second
Wave Feminism was flowering and culturally and artistically, we were
poised on the brink of dramatic changes.
  
inkwell.vue.493 : Mary Mackey, The Village of Bones
permalink #4 of 93: Mary Mackey (mm) Sun 23 Oct 16 10:06
    

At the time I was a young Assistant Professor of English and Women's
Studies at California State University, Sacramento. I was the first
faculty member hired in Women's Studies and one of the few women on
tenure track, so besides teaching all sorts of courses--including a
humanities course for recently released felons from California State
Prisons--I was the token woman on many committees. One day while
sitting in the library grading papers, I cracked. Reaching up, I
grabbed the nearest book with the intention of forgetting what I had
to do reading for pleasure. That book turned out to be "History
Begins at Sumer" by Samuel Noah Krammer. Suddenly, I knew what I was
going to do next: I was going to write a book about the history that
came *before* ancient Sumeria,a history of an earlier society that
was not patriarchal but matristic and Goddess-worshiping.
  
inkwell.vue.493 : Mary Mackey, The Village of Bones
permalink #5 of 93: Mary Mackey (mm) Sun 23 Oct 16 10:32
    

I found evidence of this Goddess-worshiping, non-patriarchal culture
in Sumerian myths, particularly in the myth of the "Descent of the
Goddess Inanna into the Underworld,"--at least enough evidence for a
work of fiction. Turning my imagination loose on the archaeological
and mythic materials available, I wrote "The Last Warrior Queen," my
second novel, which is the story of a young woman named Inanna who
becomes--against her will--the Queen of the City of the Dove and
leads its people into a battle against invading, patriarchal nomads.
  
inkwell.vue.493 : Mary Mackey, The Village of Bones
permalink #6 of 93: Mary Mackey (mm) Sun 23 Oct 16 10:32
    
Some time after "The Last Warrior Queen" was published, I got a
phone call from an editor at Harper San Francisco, who asked if I
would be interested in writing a novel based on a non-fiction book
he was about to publish. That book turned out to be Marija
Gimbutas's monumental work "The Civilization of the Goddess." 

As soon as I opened it and saw the depth of Professor Gimbutas's
research and the beautiful photographs she had taken of objects she
had excavated, I realized that everything up to that point had
prepared me to write a novel about the Goddess-worshiping cultures
of Neolithic Europe: I would gather up the potsherds and piece them
back together; I would figure out how the little goddess statues
might have been used in religious rituals; I would rewrite the poems
and prayers of these people; I would rebuild their houses; I would
lift up their bones, put flesh on them, and make them dance. 
  
inkwell.vue.493 : Mary Mackey, The Village of Bones
permalink #7 of 93: Paris in PDX (paris) Sun 23 Oct 16 10:45
    
Mary, I am so pleased to be part of this discussion.

I've wondered, as I've read all of your books, how you created the
names for your characters. Can you say a bit about that?
  
inkwell.vue.493 : Mary Mackey, The Village of Bones
permalink #8 of 93: Mary Mackey (mm) Sun 23 Oct 16 10:46
    
A plot sprang into my head: it would follow a young priestess, as
yet unnamed, in a long journey across Neolithic Europe from Brittany
to the Black Sea. In the course of her pilgrimage, she would see
(and my readers would see) the Goddess-worshiping cultures as they
had been for thousands of years, in full flower, egalitarian,
peaceful, honoring the Earth as a Sacred Mother who brought forth
all life. 

As she neared the steppes of the Ukraine, all this would suddenly
change. My heroine would be captured by patriarchal nomads and find
herself in world where women were not honored, where most men were
oppressed by ruthless leaders, where the horse had been turned into
a weapon of genocide and war. Naturally, she would escape, but what
message would she bring back to the south? How could a peaceful
people defend themselves against such ruthless enemies?
  
inkwell.vue.493 : Mary Mackey, The Village of Bones
permalink #9 of 93: Mary Mackey (mm) Sun 23 Oct 16 10:55
    

Libbie, just slipped in with the perfect question. First, let me say
that the plot (above) was clearly too long for one novel unless I
wanted to imitate Proust, which my writing group warned me would be
a bad idea.

In the end, the story of Marrah--the name I ultimately gave to my
young priestess--became three novels: "The Year the Horses Came,"
"The Horses at the Gate," and "The Fires of Spring." And then, this
year, a fourth novel--prequel to the other three--entitled "The
Village of Bones: Sabalah's Tale." Altogether, these four novels
constitute my Earthsong Series which covers about 30 years in the
lives of the people of Neolithic Europe and about 26 years in my
writing life.
  
inkwell.vue.493 : Mary Mackey, The Village of Bones
permalink #10 of 93: Mary Mackey (mm) Sun 23 Oct 16 11:02
    

Along the way, I had to name a lot of characters. The nomads were no
problem. I could give them Indo-European names since the evidence
indicated that they came from Eurasia and spoke an Indo-European
language.

But the Goddess people were more of a problem. I didn't want to make
up nonsense. I wanted names that were part of a complete language,
names that would have a meaning--perhaps only for me.

I finally settled on Basque. Not only is Basque a non-Indo-European
language, there is evidence that it may be a "relic" language from
before the nomadic invasions of the Fifth Millennium B.C. E.  
  
inkwell.vue.493 : Mary Mackey, The Village of Bones
permalink #11 of 93: Mary Mackey (mm) Sun 23 Oct 16 11:11
    


Thus, all the Goddess-worshiping people in the Earthsong Series have
Basque names. These are not the names Basque people actually give
their children. The names in my novels have secret meanings, only
apparent to those who speak Basque. I think of them as Easter eggs,
hidden in the text.
  
inkwell.vue.493 : Mary Mackey, The Village of Bones
permalink #12 of 93: Joe Flower (bbear) Sun 23 Oct 16 18:44
    
Hey, Mary!

I was struck by the tone of The Village of Bones. I finally came to
feel that it sounded most like the tone of a storyteller, someone
sitting around a fire telling a tale. Was that what you had in mind?
  
inkwell.vue.493 : Mary Mackey, The Village of Bones
permalink #13 of 93: Mary Mackey (mm) Sun 23 Oct 16 19:59
    

That's a good description of the tone, Joe. I wanted to take you
back 6,000 years and let you hear a story told around a campfire.
Arash,one of the main characters in "The Village of Bones," is a
kind of Neolithic troubadour who wanders across Europe entertaining
people with stories and songs. We have records of similar songs,
memorized, sung, and handed down from generation to generation, in
Epics like "Beowulf."

I sometimes think of the many songs and stories that must have been
lost before the invention of writing. We humans were hunters and
gatherers for 70,000 years before most of us settled down to become
agriculturists about 10,000 years ago. That's 60,000 years of songs
sung and stories told around campfires.
  
inkwell.vue.493 : Mary Mackey, The Village of Bones
permalink #14 of 93: Phil Catalfo (philcat) Sun 23 Oct 16 23:29
    
Wow. Fascinating stuff! I spent a little time in the Basque Country
of Spain earlier this year, and would love to know more about their
history, culture, and language--although I'm fluent in Spanish, I
couldn't understand a word of Basque when I was there. Now I'll have
to see if I can find out what the characters' names mean in Basque!

Mary, thanks for telling us about how you first encountered and then
extensively explored this subject matter, and laying out the
publishing chronology of the four novels in your Earthsong series.
I'd like to ask about the fact that the latest novel is a *prequel*.
It's not unusual for a prequel to be written, of course, but you had
already written and published three novels in the series, taking the
story, as you say, about 30 years forward. Why did you choose to do
a prequel now, as opposed to writing a fourth novel that would take
the story further forward? Did you always plan to write what turned
out to be the prequel? If so, why didn't you write it first?
  
inkwell.vue.493 : Mary Mackey, The Village of Bones
permalink #15 of 93: Pamela McCorduck (pamela) Mon 24 Oct 16 07:48
    
While Mary is pondering that, I wonder if Mary would also ponder the
place of her novels in a time when the patriarchy seems to be
breaking down, or at least changing dramatically.
  
inkwell.vue.493 : Mary Mackey, The Village of Bones
permalink #16 of 93: Paris in PDX (paris) Mon 24 Oct 16 09:22
    
Pamela asks something I would also like to hear about.
  
inkwell.vue.493 : Mary Mackey, The Village of Bones
permalink #17 of 93: Mary Mackey (mm) Mon 24 Oct 16 11:31
    
Right now the novels in the Earthsong Series are in the following
Chronological order:
1. The Village of Bones: Sabalah's Tale (Prequel to the Series)
2. The Year the Horses Came
3. The Horses at the Gate
4. The Fires of Spring

By the time a reader gets to the end of "The Fires of Spring" the
invading Beastmen have begun their initial conquest of Old Europe
(aka Neolithic Europe), a conquest which will take over a thousand
years to complete, with some holdouts of the older
Goddess-worshiping cultures remaining intact into historical times.
  
inkwell.vue.493 : Mary Mackey, The Village of Bones
permalink #18 of 93: Mary Mackey (mm) Mon 24 Oct 16 11:32
    

I could have written another novel about this conflict, and will
probably do so in the future, but as I wrote the first three novels,
I became increasingly interested in the original cultures of Old
Europe which had endured for thousands of years before the invasion.

When you write a novel, you live in the world of that novel. In the
cultures of Old Europe I found a refuge from the eternal war and
social, political, and religious turmoil of the present, and I
wanted to share that refuge with my readers. 
  
inkwell.vue.493 : Mary Mackey, The Village of Bones
permalink #19 of 93: Mary Mackey (mm) Mon 24 Oct 16 11:33
    

As you know if you have read “The Village of Bones,” this was not a
perfect world, but evidence indicates that these cultures were
egalitarian, honored women and children and old people, worshiped
the Earth as sacred, and although they no doubt had incidences of
violence, they show no signs of having waged organized warfare nor
of having committed genocide. Not only is Old Europe a great place
to visit every morning when I sit down at my computer, its people
can teach us a great deal about how to cherish both the earth and
one another.
  
inkwell.vue.493 : Mary Mackey, The Village of Bones
permalink #20 of 93: Mary Mackey (mm) Mon 24 Oct 16 11:34
    

In addition, I became increasingly interested in Sabalah, Marrah’s
mother, who makes a brief appearance in “The Year the Horses Came.”
Sabalah is a strong, intelligent woman who has courage, compassion,
prophetic gifts, and a fierce love for her daughter.  She has walked
across Europe from the Black Sea to what is now Brittany, pregnant
for the first half of her journey, giving birth to Marrah among
strangers, and then moving on. What makes a person strong enough to
do that? Was she driven by fear? love? a longing for adventure? or
all three? I wanted to know more about Sabalah and share her story
with my readers.
  
inkwell.vue.493 : Mary Mackey, The Village of Bones
permalink #21 of 93: Mary Mackey (mm) Mon 24 Oct 16 11:35
    

The people of Old Europe believed the Earth was a living being that
brought forth all life, and was thus, necessarily female. They
didn’t worship one supreme Goddess. They weren’t monotheistic like
Christianity, Judaism, or Islam. They worshiped the Goddess Earth in
many forms: bird, snake, pregnant doe, bear, owl, etc. I wanted to
explore how seeing the Earth and all its creatures as sacred
influenced their lives and contemplate how their beliefs compare to
ours. 

How do people act when they feel that the earth under their feet is
alive versus when they feel that it’s inanimate real estate? What
does it mean to live and walk on the Sacred Body of a Great Mother? 
  
inkwell.vue.493 : Mary Mackey, The Village of Bones
permalink #22 of 93: Mary Mackey (mm) Mon 24 Oct 16 11:36
    

I wanted to explore this pre-invasion world of Old Europe not by
preaching or lecturing, but  by creating a full, complex human
being; a Sabalah who felt alive; a Sabalah who loved and rejoiced
and suffered and failed and succeeded, and worried and felt happy
and sometimes, when she was lucky, felt bliss and peace and
contentment.

All these things influenced my decision to write a Prequel.
  
inkwell.vue.493 : Mary Mackey, The Village of Bones
permalink #23 of 93: Mary Mackey (mm) Mon 24 Oct 16 11:41
    

Tomorrow I'll answer Pamela's question about the place of my novels
at a time when patriarchy seems to be breaking down or at least
changing radically.
  
inkwell.vue.493 : Mary Mackey, The Village of Bones
permalink #24 of 93: Pamela McCorduck (pamela) Mon 24 Oct 16 12:11
    
Tease!
  
inkwell.vue.493 : Mary Mackey, The Village of Bones
permalink #25 of 93: Phil Catalfo (philcat) Mon 24 Oct 16 15:17
    
Pamela may feel teased (!), but I'm breathless with delight at your
answers, Mary!

My next question: In "The Village of Bones," one of the characters
reveals a prophecy saying that at some indeterminate, far-off point
in the future, humans "will want to love the Goddess Earth again and
nurse Her back to health"... 

<swallowing hard> 

Are we those humans?
  

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