The Bard's Grove

"There are times when people need stories more than they need nourishment, because the stories feed something deeper than the needs of the body."
Charles DeLint, The Onion Girl

Monday, November 11, 2013

Emerging Archetypal Themes: Scorpio, Death & Rebirth and Guy Gavriel Kay’s The Fionavar Tapestry

          The sign of Scorpio ushers in the cold and dark part of the year in the northern hemisphere.  Coming after the last harvest, people celebrated year’s ending and honored their dead in holidays such as Samhain, All Hallow’s Eve and the Day of the Dead.  The rising of the dark during this time makes Scorpio the perfect time to honor the fact of death as part of life. 
          Scorpio is called the sign of death and rebirth.  Ancient star maps show a giant scorpion with its tail raised to sting the heel of the hero Ophiuchus or Aesculapius, the great healer, called the Serpent Bearer.   Death, healing and rebirth are all part of Scorpio’s cosmic story.
          The most intense of the three water signs (Cancer, Scorpio and Pisces), Scorpio symbolizes our inner struggle to open up and allow intimacy with others, to acknowledge someone else’s values, and to learn how to work in deep emotional partnership.  With Saturn in Scorpio these past two years, we have been given a lesson in dropping old emotional patterns that no longer serve us and opening ourselves to an emotional healing and rebirth. 
          We are experiencing a breakdown in our culture, and we need to accept the Scorpio initiation of death.  With Scorpio’s ruling planet, Pluto, in Capricorn, the sign of our cultural institutions, and Capricorn’s ruler, Saturn, in Pluto’s sign, it’s a cosmic wake-up call to all of us.  The force is with us on this one.   It’s time to see that death is not the end, but merely a transitional phase to another type of life, whether here on Earth or in the spiritual realms.  We have to get over our fear of death so we can bring new life to our planet and our people.
          We have to help patriarchy die.

Guy Gavriel Kay’s The Fionavar Tapestry 

        Once again, I want to talk about a series of fantasy books by my favorite author.  Yes, this trilogy is even more my favorite than Tolkien’s LOTR, which I must have read 40 times throughout the years.  It makes sense, since Mr. Kay helped Christopher Tolkien edit his father’s work after his death.  

                                                Martin Springett--artist

          The Fionavar Tapestry is Mr. Kay’s first fantasy novel, but don’t stop there.  He’s written 10 of my favorite historical fantasies.  I’m sure I’ll get a chance to talk about a few others at The Bard’s Grove in the future.
          The Fionavar Tapestry is a trilogy comprised of: The Summer Tree, The Wandering Fire & The Darkest Road. It resonates with our times, because 5 of the many wonderful characters in the books are modern college students who find that they have big roles to play in saving the first world of Fionavar from a deep-seated darkness whose only passion is to unravel the tapestry of Life in all worlds.
          Sounds like some of the issues we face as we work to get rid of the end game of patriarchy—its monolithic corporations which are destroying our Earth and taking our freedom away!  With Uranus in Aries, we are each being called to our heroic selves, to stand up and help change the world.  In these books, these five college students find that they have a place in the last battle again evil alongside great heroes and heroines in a world where magic and mystery are still acknowledged and valued.

          We meet the main characters in The Summer Tree.  Four friends attend a summer lecture by a mysterious and reclusive genius and along with a fifth student, Dave, get invited after the lecture to his rooms, where he tells them he’s from another world—the first world of all worlds, Fionavar.  He has been sent to bring back five people to attend a great celebration in their world.  The five, for various reasons, all accept his invitation and are taken to a world of magic and wizards, kings and princesses, priestesses and seers, and an ancient evil which is rising again with intentions of destroying all the worlds.
          Each of these young people discovers who they are truly meant to be when they accept their roles in the army of Light which gathers in Fionavar.  Fionavar is the home of many races: the Kings of Men in Brennin and Cathal, the Dalrei, the native tribes of the Plains, the gentile Giants and people of Eridu, and the stalwart dwarves as well as the beautiful Lios Alfar, the Fair Folk.  This brief explanation tells you nothing about the finely drawn characters who I know will stay in your imaginations for a long time.
          The five chosen ones are all uniquely themselves.  Kimberly is a med student who discovers she has been seen and awaited for many years in Fionavar, and who must bear the burden of the War Stone.  Then there’s Kevin, the brilliant lawyer who goes so deep in lovemaking that he touches a goddess.  Paul is called to an especially hard task—to be tied to the Summer Tree and so become the Arrow of the God.  Jennifer, whose beauty enchants even the immortal Lios Alfar, must pay a debt from past lives and come through the fires of death and transformation to a new life.   And the fifth is Dave, who has always felt himself an outsider and who gets separated from the other four upon their arrival in Fionavar.  He finds himself called to become a warrior when he is found on the Plains by one of the Dalrei tribes.

          And those are just the modern Canadian characters!  In Fionavor, we find out that the mysterious lecturer is none other than the wizard Loren Silvercloak along with his source, Matt, who was once King of the Dwarves.  The wizards of Fionavar get their power from their source, and we see both the good and the evil of this in the stories.
          Then we have some of the most marvelous warriors I’ve ever encountered in any story. The brilliant, daring, romantic and defiant Diarmuid, the youngest son of King Ailell and his solemn exiled older brother; the warriors of the Dalrei—Ivor, Levon, Torc and Tabor; Shalhassan, the Lord of Cathal and his beautiful, dangerous daughter Sharra; Na-Brendel and the host of the Lios Alfar; the goddesses and gods of Fionavar; the shamans and seers and the priestess of the Mother, Jaelle.  And so many other brave and interesting characters—a few which I will leave as a surprise for you.
          The main story is that Rakoth Maugrim the Unraveller, who has been chained under a mountain for millennia, plots to break free from his prison with the help of his lieutenant Galadan and the usual host of evil beings.  But even these characters are never one-dimensional and sometimes even sympathetic.  When Rakoth does break free, all our heroes and heroines must work to overthrow him on many fronts.  This they do, with great sacrifice and honor.
          Scorpio’s energies are part of this story of renewal.  In Fionavar, the old world is dying and everyone has to take up their archetypal roll if they are to defeat great evil and bring peace to the land again.  This can happen within an individual and within a society.  If we all make sure that we go through the death and rebirth ourselves, we stand a good chance of re-shaping our own world into a higher, better version of itself.  And this story of cultural renewal is a great guide for us.
          I can’t tell you anymore about the story because I don’t want to spoil your enjoyment.  This is the absolute best ‘end of the world’ fantasy you’ll read since you read the Lord of the Rings.  I suggest you order your copies now and spend the holidays inside a story that contains many aspects of our Celtic myths rolled into one in the most satisfying way. 
For more information about Guy Gavriel Kay, go to:

 From The Bard’s Grove,


  1. Agreed. This is one of THE best series in high fantasy that exists today. The storytelling, the character development, the poignant and poetic narrative are all twined into a perfect skein of timeless wonder.

    I would also highly suggest the works of Patricia McKillip, author of the Riddlemaster series.

    1. Yes, he is the best fantasy writer today by far. And I love the Riddlemaster of Hed. I read that 20 years ago. And still love it. Our fantasy writers are the new mythologists.