Scottish officials are seeking the remains of a 17th century witch, Lilias Aide

Lilias Aide’s corpse and artifacts were part of an intense fever for spirituality and interest in the supernatural during the 19th century. Her grave was looted during this time. Andrew Carnegie was given a walking-stick made of wood from her coffin. Now Scottish officials are working to recover her remains and artifacts so that Lilias Aide can finally rest in peace. Here’s the whole story:

The Shibboleth

A Shibboleth, like a spell, is a word that has incredible power. It is a cultural signifier of both belonging and division. Creating a shibboleth doesn’t mean bringing more meaning to a word, but rather removing meaning from a word. Nearly every shibboleth is nonsense. The word Shibboleth comes from ancient Hebrew and means either the head of a wheat stalk or other grain, or a storm, torrent or tempest.

The word “Shibboleth” was the first word transformed in this way, stripped of it’s meaning and used to identify an alien culture, separating the Ephraimites from the Gileadites in the book of Judges:

And the Gileadites took the passages of Jordan before the Ephraimites: and it was so, that when those Ephraimites which were escaped said, Let me go over; that the men of Gilead said unto him, Art thou an Ephraimite? If he said, Nay;
Then said they unto him, Say now Shibboleth: and he said Sibboleth: for he could not frame to pronounce it right. Then they took him, and slew him at the passages of Jordan: and there fell at that time of the Ephraimites forty and two thousand. read more

Alice’s Story is Here

I just ordered my copy, and I can’t wait to read it. From the Amazon previews it looks like it starts at the beginning, and gives us a deeper look at one of the most interesting characters in the Magicians. It definitely speaks to the power and complexity of these books that there are really no supporting characters, and every character can be seen as a protagonist in their own story. I can see this simply becoming a series, as I would be equally interested to read Elliot’s or Janet’s story.

You can buy it here:

Interview with Lev Grossman

This week we caught up with Lev Grossman, author of the Magicians trilogy and many other great works to ask about his future projects, go in-depth on the books, and find out what is Magic in his life.

You’re a family guy, a full-time journalist and you have a tv show. Do you have a slot for fiction on your schedule? How do you maintain your connection to fiction and fantasy?

I quit my job! So at least I’m not a full-time journalist anymore. Though I was for almost 20 years, give or take. But I quit to focus full-time on my own writing. I still do other projects besides writing novels though — lately I’ve been dabbling in writing for TV and movies, but nothing that’s been announced yet.
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Where Are All of the Monsters?

The Nightmare – John Henry Fuseli

“No one would come right out and say it, but the worldwide magical ecology was suffering from a serious imbalance: too many magicians, not enough monsters.”
–The Magicians – Lev Grossman

Let’s suppose there is a magical planet named Fillory that your siblings have found a way to visit from Earth via a magical doorway. However, you never get to stay and it is the only place in the universe that you want to be. One day you find a spring that holds all the magic and you drink from it giving you the power the stay, but it also gives you unimaginable magical power. What do you do?

Those of us who love The Magicians know what happens next. The power of magic absorbs the boy who becomes The Beast and he almost dries up all of magic for Fillory and Earth in his unending thirst for the power of magic.

Let’s put a pin in that thought and turn now to Earth which is comprised of magicians, hedge witches, and non-magical folk. Those who have magic, love and enjoy it, but largely have nothing to do because magic fulfills all their needs. In fact, in my rereading of The Magicians there is one sentence that haunts me and I can’t quite shake it:

No one would come right out and say it, but the worldwide magical ecology was suffering from a serious imbalance: too many magicians, not enough monsters.
–The Magicians – Lev Grossman

Usually on Thursdays I write a little recap on last night’s show with a few thoughts about what is coming. Today I am breaking from that. Instead you will find my thoughts about the space between the books, show, and reality. There are some very concerning things going on in this world and I think this is a good intersection at which to discuss the cross over between fiction and reality. After all, what is the point of fiction, but to give us a chance to explore the themes of our common humanity? So today, I want to think about this sentence and wonder why are there so many magicians and so few monsters?

How Quentin Coldwater’s Depression Saved Him

Quentin Coldwater provides one of the most honest perspectives on what it is like to have depression. For him, it goes beyond sadness. It is a sense of nothingness, emptiness, a disconnection from one’s inner being.  His battle is twice as difficult than that of usual fantasy protagonists, who are naturally self assured, brave and optimistic . Instead we have insecure, melancholy Quentin. A soon as he is done battling beasts on the outside, he must go on to fight those residing inside his mind.

In the first book,  he goes through a whirlwind of depressive episodes, each one unlocking a new realization. As a high school student, it signals a yearning for something extraordinary. When he graduates, it leads him to seek beyond the hedonistic pleasures. Following the death of Alice, he channels it into mastering spell craft.  He discovers being a magician is all about transforming  the victim mentality into one of empowerment that allows manipulation of reality.

“But you, my friends, you found another way: a way to use the pain. To burn it as fuel, for light and warmth. You have learned to break the world that has tried to break you.”

The inner pain did not make him unworthy of the Fillorian crown. It did not hinder him from falling in love with Alice, and it did not, in any way reduce his magical abilities. He did not have to go out and cure his mental disease before he could accomplish anything. Instead life naturally did it for him with every heartbreak, tragedy, discovery, epiphany and moments of joy.

His depression acted as the catalyst for deep, soul level changes. With it Quentin graduated from a magic school , was  crowned King, and uncovered the true depth of his power even when he lost it all. His choice to switch from a limiting, masochistic perspective to a courageous, expansive one  gave him the confidence to go on dangerous high stakes quests and save magic. Thanks to our hero, we learn that the “worst” parts of us serve to guide us through our life journey.