Archive Tag:mythology

Drabble 159 – Nephelai

A photo of mist against a forest background.

I’ve had Greek mythology on my mind lately after devouring Madeleine Miller’s The Song of Achilles and Circe. These stories were part of my childhood, but returning to them as an adult, I find so much more than I could have imagined. As a kid, I swallowed them up. As an adult, I find myself wanting to shove my fingers through the cracks and look deeper. I want to look behind the curtain, under the table, out into the dark depths of the forest.

Both of these books take stories that have existed for centuries and broaden them, exploring the edges and pushing at the boundaries. It’s part understanding cultural context, but it’s also universality—Achilles and Patroclus’ relationship in context, yes, but also the timeless concept of desires that don’t quite align. The role of women in Ancient Greece, of course, but also the weight of expectations.

I think that’s why I’ve always been such a sucker for a good myth, well-told. I’m not Persephone, I’m not Artemis, but these stories ignite my curiosity and encourage my imagination because they are still so easy to identify with, even centuries later. The themes are there, even if the context is different.

Anyway, here’s a drabble.

Drabble 158 – Enoptromancy

A photo of a mirror against a pink wall. Palm leaves can be seen in the lower right hand corner of the mirror.

I’ve had a fear of mirrors since I was a kid and a girl on my bus told me you could summon Bloody Mary by repeating her name three times. She said the ghost would appear and scratch you, and showed me her arms to prove it. She was a purveyor of eerie urban legends—she said the worry dolls my family had given me to help me cope with some difficult life stuff would come to life and make my worries come true, that the houses on our bus ride home were haunted, and so on—and I bought into every one of them. Of course, I’d never say Bloody Mary aloud, but would it count if I thought it? Did they have to be said altogether, or would three times spread out over a lifetime still summon her?

Aside from one brief dabble into Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board, I was always too scared to try any of the creepy sleepover rituals we whispered about. In high school, my friends went walking through a graveyard on Halloween—I crossed the street, saying I’d rather walk home in the dark by myself than through a graveyard.

I’ve eased up a bit since then, but even while writing this, I wondered if Bloody Mary would know that I’d written her name three times in one blog post, that I’m seated in front of a window and that it’s so dark outside I can see my reflection in it. The scratches on that girl’s arms left such an impression on me that I can’t shake the fear decades later.

Anyway, here’s a drabble.

Drabble 157 – Oceanid

A close-up view of an ocean wave.

While writing The Compendium of Magical Beasts, I thought a lot about monsters and myths and women. In part because my narrator, like me, is the kind of person who would think about those things, and in part because I feel that to leave out discussions of marginalization, even in a book about creatures that probably don’t exist, was to do folklore and history and science a disservice. The chapter on nymphs is one of my favorites for that reason. I could have written a straightforward explanation of what a nymph is and how they live, but there’s more to it than that—call somebody a ‘nymph’ today, and you’re not saying they’re a forest-dwelling spirit. Same with ‘harpy’ or ‘siren,’ both words that meant female monsters, and now mean female monsters in a different way.

According to myth, there are some three thousand oceanids, with only a handful of them being worthy of names and stories. Of those stories, most involve them giving birth, or nursing, or caretaking; there was only one story to be told, and it was told again and again and again.

Anyway, here’s a drabble.

Drabble 143 – Pythoness

An image of a Paestan vase, showing a female soothsayer with snakes on her shoulders and in her hair.

One of the strongest ways that anxiety manifests for me is in the ways I think about the future. I’m generally an optimist, but when I’m feeling anxious, I imagine myself with a sort of reverse Midas touch: everything I do, everything I’m involved in, everything I know and love, will crumble by virtue of my involvement.

I’m not a Cassandra; most of these things don’t come true, and if they do, the consequences are never as bad as I imagine them to be. I am, as it turns out, terrible at predicting the future. If anxiety were rational, my acknowledgement of this fact would make it disappear. It doesn’t.

Instead, I have to recognize it for what it is. I don’t know the future. In fact, I don’t want to know the future. I prefer to let things be a mystery, anxiety be damned.

Anyway, here’s a drabble.

Drabble 134 – Paralian

Paralian

I have written about the ocean so many times. I would say that I’m running out of things to say about it, and maybe that’s true to an extent, but then I think about the feeling of seeing a humpback whale in the wild, or the way the riptide tries to drag you out to see, or the feeling of turning over a rock to find a crab underneath.

It’s not heard to understand why it’s a potent metaphor. And though it might be borderline cliche, we return to it time and time again, because there is still so much of it unexplored.

Anyway, here’s a drabble.

Drabble 126 – Quiescent

Quiescent
Altemps, sleeping Erinyes / CC BY-SA 3.0

Aeschylus’ Oresteia is one of those works I read and immediately knew I was reading against authorial intent. I didn’t have enough English literature education in me yet to understand why I shouldn’t care what some old dead man thought about Clytemnestra, but there was something about her rage that resonated with me, a rage so big and violent its aftershocks woke the dark gods beneath the earth.

I can’t imagine why I found that important.

Anyway, here’s a drabble.

Drabble 113 – Ophiophilist

Ophiophilist

It’s been a while. As much as I wanted to keep doing these, it turns out writing most of a book in a little more than a month takes up a fair bit of my time. I’m a slow writer to begin with, and getting the first draft of The Compendium of Magical Beasts written was a pretty substantial task. I learned a lot from the process–enough that I have exactly zero guilt about taking a month off from writing drabbles–and can’t wait to start working on some of the projects I left by the wayside while working on it this year.

The experience of writing a book like this, which is fundamentally different from anything else I’ve ever written, has been incredibly informative and rewarding. I know a lot more about what I’m capable of, and I’m blessed to work with such great people on this project; every time I get a new sketch from Lily in my inbox, there’s another moment of elation because that sketch! is based! on something! I wrote!

I can’t wait for this book to be out in the world, and I hope it brings people as much joy as it brought me to write it.

Anyway, at long, long last, here’s a drabble.

Drabble 103 – Alseid

Alseid

A few creepy things have happened to me throughout my life, but when somebody asks me for my creepiest story, exactly one comes to mind–the time I saw a something on the side of the road late at night.

I say a something because I’m not sure what it was and I have no touchstone for what such a thing could even be. It was around three in the morning; I was tired and I’ve been known to see strange things when I’m tired, but it happened on a road that was notoriously haunted in my community.

It went like this: I was staring out the window, watching the trees go by. As I looked, I saw something rise up to about six feet high and outstretch wings that appeared to be about six feet in span. We kept driving, and I kept staring out the window, certain I’d imagined it.

Until a friend in the car said, “Did you just see that?”

It wasn’t scary until that moment. I could convince myself that nothing had happened, that there was nothing to be frightened of in the woods, but the moment somebody else acknowledged that it happened, I had to confront that it had really been there. Whatever it was, it’d been real enough that all three of us in the car had seen it.

Anyway, here’s a drabble.

Drabble 96 – Malison

Malison
Cassandra // Evelyn De Morgan // Public Domain

There’s this quote I first heard in Pretty Deadly, a comic by Kelly Sue Deconnick, Emma Rios, Jordie Bellaire, ad Clayton Cowles–“Good luck, bad luck, who knows?” I bought volume two from Deconnick at Rose City Comic Con last year, and she signed the book with those words. I hadn’t read it yet, but that quote kept hammering through my head. Good luck, bad luck, who knows?

A lot of bad things have happened in my life. A lot of good things have also happened in my life. There’s no miraculous turnaround, just a series of events happening and happening and happening, some good, some bad. It’s easy to focus on one group or another and think that my life is either trauma after trauma or success after success, but, considered in a straight line, each one feeds into another. Remove a single event from my life and I’m not sure where I’d be, but it probably wouldn’t be here. I’m as much every bad thing as I am every good thing. I’m crying into a pillow and laughing on my wedding day. I’m thinking of my flaws and celebrating my successes. I’m on top of the world and buried under a rock.

I don’t think about luck anymore, at least not in the sense that it’s something you can have. I don’t have good luck. I don’t have bad luck. Sometimes good things happen, sometimes bad things happen. I work and I try and I do my best and sometimes I’m rewarded for it, sometimes the stars align just right and I feel lucky, but I’m not sure it goes any deeper than that. Things happen. Things continue to happen. I keep moving forward.

I suppose what I’m getting at is that I’m not sure there is good or bad luck. There’s simply luck, and it hits us all now and again. Good, bad, who knows.

Anyway, here’s a drabble.

Drabble 79 – Flora

Flora

79 isn’t a particularly interesting number, but when I realized that today would mark my 79th drabble for this blog, I was a little taken aback.

I feel like I’m in a constant state of questioning whether I am cut out for this. By ‘this’ I mean a bit of everything–writing, mostly, but I’m always wondering whether I’m any good at anything at all. It’s not a matter of asking for compliments or reassurance, either, because if I wasn’t actually confident in my writing to some degree, I wouldn’t put it online for other people to read.

Still, doubt creeps in. The other day I scrubbed mold out of a windowsill and wondered how it got there, how it got so bad. Why didn’t I notice? Why didn’t I catch it sooner? It’s that slow, incremental growth that gets you, and, even when it’s cleaned up, you punish yourself for letting it get that way in the first place.

I should quit, I think. And then I follow that thought back to its source, a dark, brittle little thing that sends shoot and tendrils outward until they choke out everything else. I can’t kill it. I can’t stop it. But I can deal with it, whether it’s with bleach and a paper towel or my own dogged determination to outgrow it.

Anyway, here’s a drabble.