Marion Grace Woolley is a multi-genre author published by Ghoswoods, Netherworld and Green Sunset. She currently lives in Rwanda and is the Manager of Pagan Writers Community.
Her latest release, Those Rosy Hours at Mazandarn is due out on 14th February 2015.
You can find her on Facebook, Twitter, via her blog and website. She also has a bi-monthly newsletter. There is a Facebook page for Those Rosy Hours at Mazandaran.
Ahead of the release of Those Rosy Hours at Mazandaran on 14th February 2015, Pagan Writers Community is turning the spotlight on Marion, to find out more about her work and interests.
We are starting with a guest post, looking at the influence of Persian history on modern Paganism.
If you would like to ask Marion a question, e-mail us at: email@example.com before Friday 30th January 2015. We will be putting the best questions to her, and demanding answers!
My forthcoming release, Those Rosy Hours at Mazandaran, published by Ghostwoods Books, has perhaps been the most demanding I’ve ever written in terms of research. It’s set in 1850s Northern Iran, exploring the world of The Little Sultana, a character first mentioned in a classic novel by French writer Gaston Leroux.
When I start to write historical fiction, I tend to spend the first few weeks immersing myself in the time. I flick through picture archives, listen to music, watch documentaries on YouTube, and scour Wikipedia for information.
It’s less of a fact-finding mission, more a way to set the tone.
Most of the real fact-checking comes in later, as I start to write. If you become too obsessed with facts and historical accuracy, you start to lose the power of your story. Once I have a sense of time and place, I tend to look up the rest as questions arises: What did people wear? Which languages did they speak? What did they eat? Who was in power?
Sometimes the question you ask simply leads to more questions. This happened quite specifically with Rosy Hours in relation to Paganism.
The mid-1800s in Iran was a time of huge political and religious turmoil. A sect had arisen called the Bábí, followers of a religious leader called the Báb, claiming to be The Gateway to Truth. The Báb was executed on the orders of the Shah in 1850. It was a significant event that eventually led to the expulsion of the Bábí from Iran and the establishment of the Bahá'í faith. It was such a significant period in history that I knew I had to include something of it in my story.
Okay, so what did the Bábí believe? What did they look like? What did they wear?
During my research, I stumbled across a talisman that the Bábí wore to distinguish their faith. It is called the haykal, and I’m sure you can understand why it piqued my interest. The word is borrowed from Arabic, meaning temple, relating to the Temple of Solomon.
Whereas this was interesting to me, as it is a shared symbol, if not a shared meaning, between modern Paganism and Persia, there was another avenue of research that quickly became utterly absorbing.
Those Rosy Hours is steeped in folk stories and legends from Persia. This steered my awareness to a much older religion called Zoroastrianism. Established in the 6th century BCE, it is thought to have influenced the iconography and theories of Judaism, Islam and Christianity. A crossover point between neolithic beliefs and modern worship.
The more I researched, the more my eyebrows started to rise.
Throughout Persia and much of Transcaucasia, New Year is still celebrated on the Zoroastrian date of the Spring Equinox, Nowruz, when light returns to the world. Their altars are made to the seasons, representing the four elements as well as humans, animals and plants. Eggs are painted, as in the Easter tradition, The Guardian of the Fire, the Hajji Firuz, dances with his face blackened like traditional morris dancers, and people jump the fire, casting their sickness into it and taking its strength, much like Beltane.
|Painted Eggs for Easter|
Then there is Sizdah Be-dar, the Day of Chaos. This is the thirteenth day after Nowruz, and is considered to be the day between years: the old year has finished, the new has not yet begun.
On this day it is said that the only way to stay safe from chaos, is to create even greater chaos yourself. People stay outdoors so that the chaos does not come into the house, they lie to each other in the fashion of April Fools, and create all sorts of noise and mayhem.
This is perhaps where the idea of 'unlucky number thirteen' comes from. What struck me was how much of European Paganism shares its roots with Persian Zoroastrianism. It seems far greater than mere coincidence. Having grown up with Pagan tradition all around me, I felt as though I had perhaps stumbled upon an ancient ancestor, the grandmother of all that is familiar.