Author Columbkill Noonan joins me to talk about some of the mythological Gods and Goddesses behind her wonderful novel, Barnabas Tew and the Case of the Missing Scarab.
I’m Columbkill Noonan, author of the just-released “Barnabas Tew and the Case of the Missing Scarab”. It’s a Victorian British detective story set, of course, in the Afterlife of Ancient Egypt. Why? Because there are loads of wonderful books about British detectives, solving all sorts of interesting cases, but they almost never end up hired by Anubis, Egyptian God of the Dead, and THAT is an egregious oversight.
In looking for a unique setting for “Barnabas”, I delved into quite a few mythologies, from cultures around the world. There are so many fascinating stories, and so many wonderful (and not so wonderful!) characters, that I knew that just one afterlife wouldn’t do; no, Barnabas must visit them all, in turn, which means that I have a LOT of sequels to write.
Therefore, I won’t be talking about detectives, or London, or anything at all about the mystery genre in general. Instead, I’ll be sharing with you some of my favorite gods and goddesses that I’ve come across whilst researching for places for Barnabas to go.
So, here it is, the Top Ten Most Awesome Mythological Characters, Ever.
10. ARACHNE: From the Greeks (and later the Romans) comes the story of Arachne, a mortal woman who was very good at weaving (and also, apparently, just a little bit cocky about it). She challenged Athena (who was the goddess of, among other things, weaving) to a weave-off. Arachne won, which annoyed Athena so much that she turned the poor girl into an immortal spider, because when someone annoys you it’s best if they suffer FOREVER, right?
9. DAMBALLAH: The Voodoo snake god who encircles the earth (puts one in mind of the Viking god who does the same, Jormungandr). Damballah is the great champion of people with physically handicapped people and young children, which sounds pretty benign, but sometimes he possesses people and when he does they can no longer speak but can only hiss. A bit of an enigma, no?
8. LOKI: A trickser god of the Vikings. Actually, Loki is a bit of a jerk, but he was tolerated by the rest of the Viking gods because they could use him to gain advantages over one another. In the end, though, he tricked a blind guy into killing his beloved-by-all brother, Balder, which made all the gods turn against Loki and imprison him on a rock with a serpent hanging over his head that dripped poison onto him periodically.
7. HATHOR: The cow-headed feminist goddess of Egypt, who goes on rampages and will only calm down if she drinks enough beer. Hathor is obviously awesome, a lady (cow? cow-lady?) before her time. When I read about her I knew that I had to make a place for her in “Barnabas”, and so she makes a very important appearance…indeed, the book wouldn’t have ended the same without her!
6. THE ANCESTOR SPIRITS OF THE MONGOLS: Not really gods, but the spirits of a tribe’s ancestors. Sometimes the dead moved on, and other times they stuck around, either because they were very, very good and wanted to help the tribe, or sometimes because they weren’t so nice and had a grudge they just couldn’t let go of, making them feel like they just hadn’t gotten enough revenge in life and therefore had to linger, messing with people and generally making their lives difficult. It was the shamans’ job to speak with these spirits, to find out what they wanted and to try to keep them from doing too much damage.
5. QUETZALCOATL (aka Kukulcan): An Aztec/Mayan god of Wisdom and Wind. Because those two things go together, right? He’s kind of serpent-y, but with feathers. His iconography stretches all across Mesoamerica (I’ve seen his depictions in Chichen Itza and Tullum, and they are marvelous). He’s been associated with fertility, and shamans, and war, and thunder and rain. Basically, creation and destruction, spirituality and violence. So, he’s sort of the god of everything.
4. HONIR: A Viking god of indecision. Do I like him? I think so…or wait, do I? I don’t know…what were we talking about again?
3. APEP: The Egyptian god of chaos (at least, one of them…the Egyptians had quite a few gods of chaos.) Apep was a serpent (why are so many gods snakes???) Apparently, the Sun God Ra had to do battle with Apep every night, and people could help Ra win by doing things such as spitting on Apep, defiling Apep (with the left foot only; I suppose the right foot isn’t insulting enough?), or taking a lance to smite Apep. Poor Apep. You’ve got to feel a bit sorry for him, chaos or no.
2. CHACMOOL: Not exactly a god, but rather a statue of a reclining figure with a concave belly used during rituals. Sacrifices (fruits, vegetables, human hearts; you know, the usual) would be placed onto the belly area of the statue. In Playa del Carmen, Mexico, I came across a public trash can that was topped by a Chacmool, and the hole where you put your trash was right in the center of the belly. Never before and never since has throwing out a napkin feel quite so holy.
1. GANESHA: He has an elephant’s head and he removes obstacles. There. He’s already number one. Add in that he is also the patron of intellect, and writing, and new beginnings, and he’s even better. Sometimes he has two arms, sometimes he has 20. That’s a lot of arms. Plus, he rides a rat (or a shrew, or a mouse, or whatever kind of rodent you wish, really). You just don’t get more awesome than that.
“Barnabas Tew and the Case of the Missing Scarab” is now available on Amazon
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