To mark the publication of Raven’s Wand’s second edition, plus the exciting features of augmented reality it now boasts, I’ve begun this chapter-by-chapter review of the book. Like the director’s commentary on a DVD I’m going to take you through the book one chapter at a time, week-by-week, revealing things nobody knows but me.
Chapter Two ‘A Witch’s Duty’
After the fury of the opening chapter there was a lot to setup in chapter two introducing the main characters and the witches’ world and their beliefs, not forgetting Skald and the thunder-sprite race. All of this had to be done ‘on the move’ so to speak; keeping the story going while laying out facts and back-story. Talking of introductions, this is where I introduced the concept of magic. I’ve always disliked magic as a story device to explain anything and everything, such as ‘a broomstick flies by magic’. It seems an unfinished and unsatisfactory explanation. Thunder-sprites became my logical-magical explanation as to how a witch’s lightning-staff flies, and it gave each witch a character they could play against and so keep the dialogue going, even when they were alone (a witch is never alone when they have a thunder-sprite!). As most of my cast were female I made sprites all male because I liked the contrast; giving sprites a more rational approach to life and making witches more intuitive. As an aside here I’d like to stress that the reason for the largely female cast isn’t to appease modern politics or entice a particular readership. Wildwood-coven began life as a portfolio of witch characters drawn as a personal project and nothing more (or so I thought at the time). As a children’s illustrator I’d long been pigeonholed drawing villains, monsters and craggy characters. My gallery of witches grew out of my simple desire to draw some likable female characters for a change, and these are the characters that evolved into the book characters and that’s all. Interestingly, the name Wildwood came later and the coven was originally called Apple-Eye but I changed it, although the name lived on, morphed into the name of the coven’s river: Appelier. At this time when I began writing I was living near Loch Ness in the Scottish Highlands. I took the name ‘Wildwood’ from the wooden house I was living in at the time, and I would walk the surrounding forest and visualize Valonia’s coven, its huts, walkways and aerial dwellings built around the trees, providing material for writing and drawing alike.
Returning to the concept of magic, chapter two’s most important task was to explain the purpose of magic and witchcraft, and that is to honour the serpent twins Hethra and Halla. These sleeping dragons symbolize the very Earth, and in protecting them the witches’ faith protects the natural world. Although there’s a lot of reinvention of traditional themes in Raven’s Wand, one thing I made sure to keep is witchcraft as a benign force, although I reinstated it as a belief system with a moral code shared by all witches to put it into a more formal framework. I hope my efforts resonate with modern day witches out there (-:
Captions to photos:
Photo 1 Wildwood-coven began life as a portfolio of witch drawings. Many of these earliest pieces no longer exist and were replaced as the project matured.
Photo 2 Wildwood-coven took its name from the wooden lodge I was living in at the time, in the Scottish Highlands.