Hello, glorious beings! It’s been a while since I’ve ranted!
With roughly ten days left in October, (Hallowe’en doesn’t count as a day, it’s a magnificent entity which has its own tender, juicy post coming) a glorious beast is approaching. And no, I’m not talking about Hallowe’en there either. What I’m talking about is…wait for it…
NANOWRIMO! Or, to the uninitiated, National Novel Writing Month. It’s an exciting bit of exasperation, for those of any type of writerly persuasion. You can be straight-laced, follow all the (exceedingly lax) rules, and produce 50,000 words of one novel project. Or you can be a rebel, and write a first draft, an erotica short, something involving a Zoroastrian deity and…oh, no. I’m informed that’s just me. But you CAN be a rebel, and write whatever you like.
The point is just to write 50,000 words in a month. It’s quite a few, but comes down to the crunchy total of 1667 words per day, and it’s lovely watching those words add up as you go along! Not, of course, that this removes the agony of editing from the equation, but hey – can’t win all the time, right?
If you’re in the mood for a bit of masochistic malarkey, visit www.nanowrimo.org and add your name (and novel) to the roster of insane wordsmiths!
I’ll be there, plugging along toward my own crazy goal of 100,000 words – I’ll get there with a few erotic shorts, and the first draft of Eight Kingdoms, book five! (It’s tentatively titled “In A Land Of Fire” but dear monkeys above, don’t quote me on that.)
Come join the fun! This year. Is the year. Of conquest!
To begin, may I say that the title of this post and the entirety of its contents are entirely the fault of two things?
1. I’ve been listening to “Werewolves of London” on repeat. You know, THIS lovely piece of pajama party dance track:
2. Ireland is awesome and voted gay marriage into a thing. A thing that people can do. WOO.
Because of these two things, Marcas, the faoladh who stars in Wolf of the West, decided it was time for me to write his and Connor’s wedding. (And this blog post.) I have enough books in the works without a sequel for that one too, but I can’ t help myself. I’m under the command of numerous imaginary figments, and Marcas can howl loudly when he wants to!
So, the actual point of this post is…faoladh! Marcas is one, which is why he’s such a pain – and the rest of the wolves of the west are, too, which is why they are such a pain. The faoladh are the werewolves of Ireland (technically of the Ossory area and not really Dublin, but could YOU pass up that pun? Didn’t think so.) and unlike most werewolves, the faoladh are heroic, instead of monstrous.
Are you a child alone at night, all by yourself on your way home and afraid of the dark? A faoladh would guide you home, protect you from predators and the the danger of the dark. A wounded warrior, perhaps the last survivor of some honorable battle? The same goes for you, because the faoladh are the protectors of the lost, and the wounded.
Rather than being cursed lycanthropes with a lust for flesh (though we’ll see about that ‘cursed’ bit in a minute), the faoladh are people, generally associated with Ossory and the nearby regions of Ireland, who choose to take on the shape of a wolf for seven years, protecting the land.
This was of course a dangerous occupation, as nothing separated one of the faoladh in wolf-shape from a normal wolf. In some of the folklore, the faoladh had the ability to speak human language , and this could protect them – if they weren’t thought to be sidhe or stray spirits. Still, there is more than one story about faoladh being hunted down, all unknowing, by those they had sacrificed so much to protect.
Remember up there I mentioned curses? Well, part of the legend of the faoladh that was changed under the influence of Christianity relates to their origin. Rather than servants of an ancient god, or chosen protectors of man, the faoladh were men and women who had made fun of a Christian saint. (Some stories say St. Natalis of Ulster…some say St. Patrick.) Because they had howled like wolves at the saint’s sermon, they were cursed to stay in the shape of wolves for seven years.
Personally, I like the older version, which made the faoladh volunteers performing a sacred duty. Considering that in all versions, they’re good creatures, helping and protecting human beings, I like to think they came into being with some dignity!
If you want to read more about the foaladh, and ancient Irish mythology in general, try Wolf of the West! The main character Marcas is faoladh, and I had fun exploring the folklore to come up with a consistent portrayal of my favorite kind of werewolf. After all, how often do werewolves get to do anything but eat people or kill vampires? (Not that that isn’t fun too!)
Out of the woods, he comes as if he knew that we were there. Dark haired, dark eyed, the sound of his voice is a song that comes faint over the shallows. Only the music carries, not the words, but that is more than enough to begin tying down the enchantment.
He is gancanagh, love-talker, and the sweet of his words can imperil as much as the sweet of his skin. He walks the edge of the water, slow steps that signal his readiness to stop, to wait – for the slightest reason, or no reason. It is the beginning of his game. Already the women among us are turning to him, lifting their eyes, their hands, fingers curled as if they could touch the softness of his hair from where they stand.
The beasts and beings that do not belong to the human world are dangerous monsters, most of them, but this one is dangerous because he is not a monster. Because he is beautiful – because, as long as he stands smiling, it is easy to believe he could be tame.
The air turns sweet, beguiling dust moving in motes golden as honey. The taste of it flows like wine on the currents of the breeze. He stares at us, and then at one among us, and the woman who has caught his eye is still as a statue despite the deck rocking beneath her, despite the whipped up surface of the sea.
We turn away from the shore, before the sugar in the air overcomes her – before it addicts her, turns the core of her being to nothing more than a seeker after that dust. He watches, and the sound of his laughter follows us.
He watches, and she watches back, as we sail away toward the dusk.
In the process of researching types of sidhe to play with in the Eight Kingdoms, I’ve encountered loads of interesting and obnoxious beings. Currently the ones I’m having the most fun with are the gancanagh – love talkers, it means, male fae who produce an irresistible attraction and addiction in mortals.
All it takes is one touch, and sometimes just to be in their presence for too long. Then a hapless human is infatuated, and doomed to be left heartbroken by their immortal lover when they grow bored and decide to move on to another mortal.
It’s difficult to find actual folklore about the gancanagh, as in legends with the specific names of people and places. When you look up faoladh, for instance, you’ll find dozens of references to the wolves of Ossory, the curse of Saint Patrick, and so on and so on (there will be so on, just wait ‘til I get ranting on in the next post). Gancanagh, though….my grandmother used to warn me that if a boy was too good to be true, he probably was, and might be gancanagh – but she never had any stories to tell about them, the way she did about the Wild Hunt or the ways to escape the sidhe if you were trapped. (Eat no food, drink no drink, remember the charm of nine and pray!)
Having grown older and done the research, of course, I now wonder if maybe the stories just aren’t recorded or as well known because they’d have to be awfully raunchy. Let’s be honest here – what we’re talking about is a fae with all the cunning and beauty of the sidhe, but the intentions of an incubus (at least where it counts.) Not exactly bedtime-story-gee-thanks-grandma material!
The interesting part for me was the differences that make the gancanagh unique, rather than the things that are obviously similar, to other such seductive immortal beings. The gancanagh not only seek out mortals to seduce, but the ones they find have no choice but to give in. Touching one of them just once – a kiss, a caress, to hold their hand – is enough to invoke the ultimate addiction. Their skin secretes a substance described variously as a golden dust, or powder (pixie dust, anyone?), which completely ensnares any mortal unfortunate to come into contact with it.
Unfortunate, because while the gancanagh are supposedly fantastic lovers, the mythology suggests that any other kind of addiction would be nothing compared to this. Deprived of the gancanagh after the fae grows bored, the mortal who has been touched by a gancanagh will suffer the most terrible withdrawal.
They may go mad, accuse friends, family, or strangers of stealing their sidhe lover, attack those they’ve accused or even murder them. Those afflicted might also suffer from a less violent lovesickness, refuse to eat or drink, or wander the woods searching for their lost lover – but in the end, most simply die from the withdrawal itself.
If you want to know more about gancanagh, the best way is probably to see one in action. Check out Undone, and the exclusive excerpts at each stop of my Blog Tour!