I am now the proud owner of a copy of the fourth installment of the Ottawa-based anthology Postscripts to Darkness, which contains my story Six Aspects of Cath Baduma. The art that accompanies my story, by MANDEM, is absolutely perfect and gave me chills.
The anthology launched at a reading hosted by the ChiSeries on Oct. 8. It was lovely. There were also preview copies at Can-Con the weekend before, which is where I got mine. I read Six Aspects of Cath Baduma at the launch.
This post is about that story. It will contain a few spoilers and some dissection. If you’d rather read the story before you see it on the examination table, then get your copy of Postscripts to Darkness 4, and read it, and come back. In the meantime, let’s all look at this picture of a hooded crow and get creeped out, shall we?
Okay. It’s all right, it’s judging me too.
Six Aspects of Cath Baduma is, oddly enough, one of the most personal stories I’ve written. This is not at all obvious on the surface. It’s set in a secondary world, with no character that is anything like me.
But it tackles some of the religious and philosophical ideas and stories that have shaped me. It’s about what we do, as human beings, when we take aspects of ourselves and name them and hang them on the wall. And personify them. And worship them. It’s particularly strange that we create deities and try to make them responsible in some way for the worst things about ourselves. It’s an odd thing to worship a scapegoat.
Badb, the battlefield crow, is one aspect of the triple goddess, along with Macha and the Morrigan. One of my favourite books is The Hounds of the Morrigan, by Pat O’Shea, who took 10 years in writing it and died before she could finish the sequel. It is one of the few books that terrify me. I adore it. Here’s a photo of my beautiful first edition.
Occoras, the giant talking crow, is inspired in part by Badb herself, obviously, but also by Odin’s ravens. The word occoras means hunger in Old Irish. Scald crow is one name for the Hooded Crow, pictured above, and associated with Badb. The fact that Occoras is a poet, a Skald Crow, is a painfully geeky mythological joke.
Lasar is Old Irish too, for fire. Maya is illusion, in Hinduism and Buddhism. Similarly, in Indian religions, Daya means compassion.
I stole the plot element of the birth-pangs from the story of Macha cursing the Ulstermen to suffer the pangs of her labour. The idea of empathy as a weapon appeals to me.
And after I went through childbirth myself (induced, without an epidural, and with a postpartum hemorrhage caused by “trauma”) the idea of an army of men suffering the same way suddenly seemed less like a funny gender-bendy story ha ha and more like a bloodbath. It felt, quite literally, like I was being ripped apart from the inside (and as it turned out, I was.) I wanted to die and there was blood everywhere, even before the hemorrhage. It was nothing like childbirth is on TV or even in most stories and books. I wanted to write a story that reflected the violence and power of real childbirth, or at least my experience of it. If I had been in another place and time, that hemorrhage would have killed me.
Setanta, in my story, is a combination of Cuchulainn (whose birth name was Setanta) and Shiva.
Enough dissection. Please do pick up a copy or order one. It’s a lovely anthology series and has been getting a lot of deserved praise and recognition of late.