Saturday, March 04, 2006

Divine Extermination and Wolves, Wolves, Wolves

I'm reading up on the myths and beliefs of the Middle Ages currently, mostly for pleasure although I suspect it may turn into something one day, and I keep stumbling over odd things. Like realising, with a start, that I recognised a number of names and places and stories in Sabine Baring-Gould's CURIOUS MYTHS OF THE MIDDLE AGES from the work of James Branch Cabell (and I'd noticed, years ago, that Cabell had taken something of his book The White Robe from a history quoted in a Baring-Gould book on Werewolves -- and the same account had inspired Saki in "Gabriel-Ernest", and me in "Only The End of the World Again", although we'd all taken the story to different places). Starting to wonder how much of Baring-Gould was in Cabell's library.

Also, as something that I found faintly shocking, but which explained something about the Middle Ages, was a paragraph in the William Granger Ryan translation of the The Golden Legend (which is much fuller and better than any of the Caxton versions of the
Golden Legend up on line), where I learned, in the chapter on the Birth of Jesus that...

Even the sodomites gave witness by being exterminated by wherever they were in the world that night, as Jerome says "A light rose over them so bright that all who practiced this vice were wiped out; and Christ did this in order that no such uncleanliness might be found in the nature he had assumed." For, as Augustine says, God, seeing that a vice contrary to nature was rife in human nature, hesitated to become incarnate.

The idea of a god of love whose first action, before becoming incarnate, was to cleanse by "exterminating" an indeterminate number of people for having sex with people of the wrong gender, is one I find remarkably disturbing, although it gives a very immediate picture of a specific mindset, not always medieval, just as the Grimm's tales in which Jews are laughingly killed set the stage somehow for the horrors of Nazi Germany.

Fascinating too, is the attitude to the old gods, who are mostly identified as being Satan, but not all and not entirely, as if the original stories of Saints versus Gods have been rewritten to make sure people know that really it was The Devil they were battling -- there's a great almost head to head between Saint Nicholas and "the wicked Goddess Diana", when he frustrates her plan to burn down a church with magic burning oil. (The Caxton version is up at for the curious. And note the interesting behaviour of Diana in

Hi Neil,
I just saw listed on Locus Online that you have Fragile Things being released in October. I hadn't seen any mention of it in the Journal. Is it a collection of shorts or such and I have just complelely blocked any mention of it before?

It's the next short story collection. The US cover art is lovely. I've not mentioned it that much here before because I'm feeling guilty about it -- I ought to be finalising the story order and writing the introduction to it, and I've still got a couple of things to finish before I can get to that point.


And finally, designer-co-director Julian Crouch told me that he wouldn't really mind if I posted a snapshot or two from the musical Wolves in the Walls workshop I was at last November here... So this is Julian himself, in the Tramway, showing us a prototype wolf's head he'd just made from burlap and glue sticks... Or possibly it's a wolf, showing us a Julian Crouch he'd made earlier...

More details and info about it at a web-site currently covered with Dave McKean (or, as the Daily Mail had it, Dave McKenna) wolves. (And I'm found talking about the Wolves production at