Thursday, April 28, 2016

Signs of spring as Beltaine draws near

Spring is one of my favorite times of the year. The hummingbirds are visiting my feeder, the quail babies hide in my yard while their parents stand guard. I love spring and the new beginnings it brings. This is the light side of spring, one I would rather embrace.

But there is a dark side. Spring was important to the ancient Celts. Beltaine was a vital time of the year, signaling the end of a long, cold, dark winter. It was also a time tinged with sadness because battles were fought in the spring.

One of my books, Beltaine's Song, is filled with spring themes, including battles fought between the Irish and the Picts in the sixth century of what is now called Scotland. There were women warriors among the fighters. My heroine was one of them. What puts the warrior in the heart of a woman? This is one of the themes I explored in this trilogy.

Among the beauty of spring, there was the ugliness of death.

Excerpt from Beltaine's Song:
The armies clashed below on the peninsula, staining the green earth with bright red blood. Heartrending screams from the dying broke the calm, silencing the seabirds with fear. War is ugly. Is the Christian Hell like this?
Surrounded on all sides by the churlish sea, islands emerged from the mist, brooding in the distance, witnesses to the horrible bloodshed. Fresh sea air swallowed some of the detestable smells of battle, filling her lungs with the scent of briny air, but the faint scent of blood set her pulse racing. With a heavy heart, she thought this battle particularly ugly because blood fought against blood, dividing the clans.
Domelch sensed something foul in the air around Dunadd, treachery lurking in the darkest corners. She thought back to the day she saw her brother riding hard to Dunadd—from the south. She knew Aedan sensed the foulness of treachery for the archers' positioning had been kept secret from all the commanders. If he suspected Galan, he had kept that to himself.
Gathering her archers, they positioned themselves in the hill's crevices, waiting for Aedan's army to lure the enemy their way and give Domelch the signal from the battle horn.
Crouched in a painful position between two rocks, Domelch nocked her arrow and waited. “Fire at my signal,” she ordered her archers.
Quiet, the archers became one with the craggy hill dressed in gray and green tunics, blending into the gray moss-covered hills. The cold, damp stones pressed painfully into Domelch's sides. Keeping her muscles still, she ignored the pain, her mind focused on the battle array below.
Clashing spears and swords against war shields splintered the air, drowning out the sea tides. War cries and yelps of pain mingled with horses' neighs and bursts from battle horns. She waited for the three short bursts of the battle horn, her heart racing with each passing moment as the battle neared their position.
Three short blasts from the ox-horn echoed through the hills, a fearsome sound like the trumpets of the Underworld calling home the dead. Domelch shuddered at the thought. We will send the dead home, she thought. “Loose your arrows,” she commanded, gathering her courage and battle fury.

Kelley Heckart
Otherworldly tales steeped in myth & magic.

A Greek vampire, Celtic kings, vengeful goddesses, an ancient faery curse… 
All three books of my Dark Goddess trilogy are available in Print and Ebook. Set in Dark Age Scotland, I mixed history with a Samhain/Beltaine myth that revolves around an Irish clan and the goddesses Brigit and Cailleach.

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