Master of the Starlit Grove

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Announcing my collection of Pagan stories, Master of the Starlit Grove.

Come into a world where the old gods are returning, where Odin’s wolves cavort, where maenads dance, where wild imaginings become real, where the sinister mingles with the absurd. Let these stories take you there. They will leave you perceiving reality in a new light. The book is published by Vanadis Texts and is available via Amazon or from the Vanadis Website: http://www.vanadis.org

To whet your appetite, here is the first story in the book:

The Lecture

Ahem! Ladies and Gentlemen, may I have your attention, please. Welcome to the Pobbelstedt Prehistoric Museum.” The speaker was a man of about thirty-five with a squareish head, neatly combed dark hair and black-rimmed glasses. With his portly physique, white shirt, tie and dark suit, he might have been a CDU politician or an insurance salesman. In fact he was Dr. Hubert Muschelhauber, Assistant Curator of the Prehistoric Museum on the outskirts of Pobbelstedt in Schleswig-Holstein. Despite his youth he had already made a name for himself in the world of archaeology with his assertion that there was no such thing as a Germanic prehistoric civilisation. He had made it his mission to prove that his remote ancestors were rude barbarians with only the most primitive tools and no culture to speak of. As for their so-called religion, they had possessed none other than the crudest form of animism. The so-called Nordic pantheon, the temples, the seasonal festivals and the ritual practices had been largely invented by medieval Christian chroniclers and later by Romantic writers and folkish crackpots.

– some mature students from the Folk High School doing a course on prehistory, a few families with small children, several elderly couples out from Hamburg for the day in a hired bus.

“In the grounds of this museum,” he said “you will find some prehistoric remains, mostly everyday things. For example, the space that you see outside this window was supposed to have been a ritual place …” He didn’t even bother to turn his head to look through the window. “And the flat-topped stone in the middle is alleged to have been an altar. In fact it’s now obvious from the markings on it that it was merely a kind of work table for chipping away at pieces of flint to make primitive weapons and tools.”

The group turned to look briefly through the window, then back to the speaker – all except for a little boy about nine years old, who continued looking at the grassy expanse with the stone in the middle, set against a backdrop of birch trees that danced and shimmered in the spring sunlight. He was mesmerised by two very large ravens that circled for several minutes before landing on the grass and standing still to the north and south of the stone as though waiting for something. Then he saw two German shepherd dogs trot into the arena and sit down on their haunches in the east and west. But wait, they didn’t look like regular German shepherd dogs – more like wolves with their shaggy grey coats and mass of fur around the neck.

The boy felt he should be trying to focus on what the speaker was saying, but Dr. Muschelhauber’s voice was droning and monotonous. “Take this object, for instance.” He turned and pointed to a stone bowl in a glass display case. “This used to be described as a ‘blood bowl’. Supposedly the worshippers stood in a circle and the priest went around and sprinkled them with blood from the bowl, using a bunch of twigs. But we now know that this was simply a mortar for pounding herbs or grain.”

Bored by the talk, the boy slipped away and found a door giving on to the lawn. As he emerged he saw a procession enter the circle formed by the ravens and the wolves. There were four young women in loose linen dresses whose colour somehow reminded him of green moss lit by moonlight. They wore girdles of some glittering, silvery material and headbands embroidered with a pattern of interlacing knots. Their plaited hair hung down almost to their waists. They were the most beautiful, radiant beings he had ever seen. They were accompanied by four men – big bearded fellows in fur hats and tunics of various colours. They wore broad leather belts with heavy bronze buckles, and their shoes had long leather laces that criss-crossed over their linen trousers. And there was a fifth man, whom the boy took to be a priest, judging by his long white robe and authoritative bearing. One by one they passed the flat-topped stone and placed various objects on it: bread, fruit, chunks of meat, a drinking horn, a pair of pine cones and a great wooden hammer with a short handle.

The priest carried, cradled in his left arm, a stone bowl like the one in the glass case. In his right hand he held a bunch of twigs, like the egg whisk that the boy had seen his grandmother use. The priest dipped the twigs in the bowl and sprinkled the faces of the worshippers with a dark red liquid, which the boy knew must be blood. The boy went closer. He desperately wanted to be part of them, to be sprinkled with blood from the bowl, but he stopped a few paces short of the circle, glancing nervously at the wolves.

He could hear the priest intoning something in a strange language. It reminded him a little of the Low German that his grandparents sometimes spoke, but he could recognise none of the words. Nevertheless the sound and rhythm of it felt deeply familiar.

The priest, walking round the circle of worshippers, came opposite to where the boy was standing, stopped and looked directly at him. His eyes were light blue and intensely penetrating, his grey-bearded face lined and weatherbeaten. He smiled, raised his hand in greeting and began to speak. All at once the boy could understand him.

“Greetings,” he said. “What is your name?”

“Felix”

“Welcome, Felix. Come into our circle. Celebrate with us.”

The boy looked nervously back through the window to where his parents and the others were still hanging on Muschelhauber’s words. He wanted to join the worshippers, but felt he should go back to the tour group and his parents.

Another group of museum visitors came walking across the lawn but appeared not to notice what was going on around the stone. One of them, a teenage girl in jeans and a tee-shirt, came close to where one of the wolves was sitting, stopped as though encountering some invisible barrier, then gave a puzzled frown and turned back.

“Come, Felix,” the priest repeated. “You belong here, with us.”

One of the women opened her arms wide and smiled at him. He stood a step closer then hesitated again, sensing that once he crossed into the circle he would never come out again. He felt he was facing the most momentous choice of his life. He could go back into the museum, to the guide’s droning voice, his parents and their expectations for his future. Or he could walk away from all that for ever by joining the worshippers, who had now begun to sing and dance in a circle, leaping, turning, waving their arms and clapping their hands. The ravens had taken to the air and were circling and swooping overhead, and the wolves were running excitedly around in a wider circle.

Now Felix could no longer resist. He would go with them. He stepped resolutely towards the circle of dancers, but at the moment he felt his mother’s hand grasp his wrist and pull him back.

“Felix, what are you doing? Why did you suddenly disappear like that?”

“I only wanted to join the dance,” he said.

“What dance? Come back immediately.”

As she dragged him back towards the museum, he glanced back over his shoulder and saw the priest wave and give him an encouraging smile as though to say: “You’ll be back.”

As he and his mother re-entered the building Dr. Muschelhauber was concluding his lecture. “And so you see that the prehistoric people of this region were a backward people, focused on little more than survival. Their utensils were crude, their lives were brutish and short, their so-called religion consisted of sacrificing to primitive idols. It is futile to romanticise these people and even more futile to try, as some people do, to revive the worship of their deities. Those gods and goddesses – if they ever existed – are now well and truly dead.”

Felix smiled and knew otherwise.

Lebensborn Boy

THE LONG SHADOW OF THE LEBENSBORN …

Read the compelling thriller co-written by Christopher McIntosh under the pen name of Roy Havelland

The Lebensborn Boy

(published by Vanadis)

Long after the end of Hitler’s Reich, many are still traumatised by one of its projects – the chain of homes known as Lebensborn (wellspring of life) for unwanted children of German soldiers and women of the occupied countries.

In a Europe divided by the Cold War, the East German intelligence service, the Stasi, is using selected former Lebensborn inmates for its own sinister purposes. In this compelling narrative a Danish family is caught up in a cruel conspiracy.

From the Orwellian world of East Berlin to the fetish clubs of Hamburg’s St Pauli district, and from the death traps of the East-West border to Denmark’s wind-blown Baltic islands, this many-layered story of deception, betrayal and love moves to a shattering climax, which only reaches its astonishing dénouement in the re-united Berlin of 1990.

“George Orwell meets John le Carré” – Irish writer J.H. Brennan.

Available from www.vanadis.org or from Amazon.

Excerpt from the novel The Lebensborn Boy, by Roy Havelland (more information about the novel below)

Harz Mountains, Germany, November 1943

They arrived on a cold November afternoon in 1943, when the trees were already heavy with snow. There were five children escorted by a young nurse from the home. Huddled in blankets, they sat on wooden benches fitted inside the rear section of the truck. The nurse was holding one of the children on her lap – a pale, shivering little boy, not yet three years old, with a persistent, rasping cough. She wished she could say something to bring him comfort, but she knew he understood nothing but his native Danish. During her time at the home she had seen many children come and go, but somehow this one had touched her, affected her in a special way – perhaps it was his physical fragility combined with something in his face, a spark, a kind of inner strength. Touching his forehead she realised that he had a fever and wondered with dread whether he was suffering from whooping cough. If he was, then she knew, they would not let him stay in the home. They’d send him to the nearby hospital, where he would end up in the department for “special treatment” – a cold euphemism for murder by over-sedation. She hoped fervently that his cough would have subsided by the time they reached the house.

            The road wound uphill between massed pine woods, and the truck laboured as it took the steep bends, its winter tyres digging into the snowy ground. Perhaps shaken loose by the vibration of the engine, a heavy clump of snow slid abruptly from a pine branch and fell to earth by the roadside with a sound like the thud of a distant field gun. As twilight turned into nightfall the headlights of the truck made the tree trunks stand out in the darkness like prison bars. They passed a milestone, and the nurse knew that they were close now. The boy had stopped coughing and seemed to have fallen asleep in her arms. With luck, no one would notice that he was ill, and perhaps by morning, after a warm supper and a good sleep, his fever would be gone.

            The truck slowed, turned off the road to the left and halted, the headlights shining on a massive double door with diagonal boarding and the name “Lenzfeld” written in black Gothic letters on a white enamelled plaque. Another plaque said: “Property of the Lebensborn Foundation. Entry by unauthorised persons strictly forbidden.” Someone opened the doors from within, and the truck moved forward with a jerk that woke the boy. As the doors closed behind them, the nurse stifled a scream of horror. The boy was coughing again.

 

1

Berlin, summer 1990

 When Erdmann heard that a woman had called him on the telephone his first thought was that there had been a mistake. No one had called him at work for years – it was out of his normal routine, and routine was what held his life together. Every morning he took the underground railway from the bleak East Berlin suburb where he lived and clocked in on the dot of eight at the Jupiter restaurant for the morning shift. In the cramped staff cloakroom behind the kitchen he put on his black suit, adjusted his bow tie in the mirror and combed his receding grey hair. Then he helped to lay the tables, putting out the menus, the knives and forks and the napkins with swift, practised movements. He had plainly been doing the job for a long time but still seemed to be a man out of his element, although resigned to it.

            Deeply etched lines on his face suggested some past ordeal that had marked him permanently. But there were still traces of earlier good looks, and his eyes conveyed a quick intelligence as well as world-weariness. Other signs suggested he had not always been a waiter: crisp movements and a precise manner hinted that he might once have been a soldier. Yet there was also a touch of the intellectual about him. To his colleagues he was something of a mystery. They found him reliable, even-tempered and polite, but always reserved – a loner. Between shifts he enjoyed a cup of coffee and a piece of cake – Black Forest gâteau, when available, being his favourite.

            The Jupiter was in a street close to Unter den Linden. It was one of those genteel, old-fashioned restaurants that the Communists had preserved almost intact, as places where the privileged could dine out or entertain foreign visitors. But, lacking the impetus and the resources to maintain it properly, they had allowed it to go to seed. The red velvet curtains in the tall windows had become threadbare, the ornate plasterwork in the ceiling had fallen away in places, and the wood panelling was chipped and cracked. Still, throughout the Communist years it had somehow clung to some lingering semblance of elegance. Now, with the Wall gone, West Germans and foreign tourists were beginning to come to the Jupiter, finding it quaint and nostalgic, and enjoying the absence of background music, so pervasive where they came from. But things were about to change. A new, young manager, Herr Meyer had taken over and had plans to smarten it up, install loudspeakers for music, hang paintings by modern artists and introduce a whole new range of dishes with French, Spanish and Italian names. It was Meyer who had taken the call.

            “Yes,” he told Erdmann “a woman with an English name – Warrington.”

            The waiter was puzzled. “Are you sure? I know no English people.”

            “Quite sure. She asked for you by name. Said she’d call back. Only don’t spend too much time talking to her. Time is money.”

            Yet again, the older man was struck by how quickly the jargon of capitalism was invading East Germany, along with the advertisements and the people hawking party insignia and GDR flags in the street. Hard to believe it was only a few months since the Wall had fallen. It was all very confusing. Often he felt that he had sacrificed half his life for nothing.

            Warrington? Surely a mistake, he told himself as the restaurant started to fill up with lunchtime customers. Even so, he found that he felt disappointed when she didn’t call again. He actually waited half an hour beyond his usual clocking-off time of four o’clock, then gave up and left for home.

            As he came down Unter den Linden towards the bridge over the river Spree, he saw a man in the uniform of the People’s Police looking on bemused as a group of teenagers jerked and twitched to a ghetto blaster thudding out a heavy, percussive rhythm. They wore torn jeans and strident tee-shirts, and the girls’ hair was dyed bright, luminous colours. The road was full of cars with western number plates – Mercedes, Audis and BMWs – making the little East German Trabants look like quaint relics of another era. Now that the period of euphoria following the demolition of the Wall had simmered down, he felt rather like an unwanted guest at a party that didn’t know where it was going.

            Warrington, Warrington … his footsteps beat out the name as he crossed the Alexanderplatz on his way home. The mystery nagged at him. Could the woman perhaps be an English friend of the family in Denmark? He rejected the thought immediately. They had surely done their best to forget him.

            In the Alexanderplatz a couple of souvenir vendors had set up their makeshift stalls. These days everyone seemed seized by a desire to sell their GDR memorabilia – flags, Free German Youth badges, People’s Army caps, framed photographs of Erich Honecker. Officially the GDR still existed, but everyone knew that it was only a matter of time before the two Germanies were reunited.

            At the entrance to the Suburban Railway station Erdmann lingered by the newspaper kiosk and browsed through the western papers on display – the Frankfurter Allgemeine, the Herald Tribune, the Times of London. He settled for a West Berlin paper and read it on the train. It was full of the debate about what should be done with the millions of Stasi files that had been assembled over the past four decades with the help of “unofficial collaborators” who had spied on colleagues, friends and even family members. These informers now feared exposure and some were being blackmailed by people who claimed inside knowledge of the files. Rumours were rife about who had collaborated. The new democratic government of the GDR had debated the possibility of destroying the files, but that would only have increased the potential for rumour. Now it looked as though the files that had survived the Stasi’s orgy of shredding when the Wall fell would be preserved and made publicly available. Somewhere, if it had not been destroyed, there would be his file. Had someone managed to get hold of it and now meant to blackmail him? But why an Englishwoman?

            He emerged from the suburban railway station at Marzahn into a landscape of bleak high-rise housing blocks, one of which he lived in. He opened his mailbox in the entrance hall and found it empty, then he took the lift up five floors to the spartan one-room flat that he called home. As he was opening the door he heard someone behind him and turned to see the bulky figure of his neighbour from across the hallway, Frau Kowsky.

            “Sorry to disturb you, Herr Erdmann. But a woman’s been round here, asking for you.” There was a look of sly amusement on her plump, middle-aged face. “Quite a young woman.” She was obviously titillated by thoughts of the mysterious female visitor.

            “When was this?”

            “The day before yesterday … in the evening. I found her hanging about the entrance to the house, and she asked if I knew you.”

            He remembered that evening, because he had gone to a film and not come back until nearly midnight. “Did she say who she was or anything else?”

            “Only that it was a private matter. She asked for your telephone number, but I didn’t know it, so I told her where you worked.” She fingered her apron nervously. “I hope I didn’t do wrong.”

            He touched her arm reassuringly. “No, not at all, Frau Kowsky. You did the right thing. Many thanks.”

            She wanted to linger on the landing, probing for more information about who the woman might have been, but he said goodnight and closed the door.

            Next day at the restaurant he started every time the telephone rang, but the morning passed and there was no call for him. Then, when the place was filling up for lunch he heard the telephone ring again and this time saw Meyer signalling to him from the bar, holding up the receiver. “This is a bad time. So make it quick. Time is money.”

            He took the receiver, still not quite believing that the call was for him.

            “Who is this?” He spoke loudly against the babble of conversation.

            “You don’t know me,” said a bright woman’s voice. The accent was foreign, but not an English one, more Scandinavian. “My name is Sonia Warrington. I tried to find you at your flat, and one of your neighbours told me that you work here.”

            “I see …” but he didn’t see at all. “What can I do for you?”

            There was a pause, then the woman said hesitantly. “It’s a delicate matter … too delicate to talk about over the phone. Could we meet?”

            Meyer was looking at him impatiently and tapping his wristwatch.

            “I …don’t know.” Should he refuse? If it was blackmail, she would find some other way to confront him. From her tone of voice she didn’t sound like a blackmailer, but still he hesitated.

            “Please, trust me,” the woman pleaded. “It’s important. It’s about the past.”

            The past. The word set off alarm bells. There were too many traumas in his past.

            Better put down the phone, he told himself. Perhaps she’ll back off. He wanted to hang up, but something stopped him. “All right. But I can’t get away until four o’clock.”

            “That’s fine. I’ll meet you at five on the Lion Bridge in the Tiergarten. Do you know it?”

            “No, but I can find it.”

            “Then see you there. I’m in my early twenties, dark haired. I’ll be carrying a red umbrella.”

            As he replaced the receiver Meyer said. “Thanks for keeping it brief. Time is money.”

            At the end of his shift he clocked off and changed into his everyday clothes. As he set off for the rendezvous he grew increasingly apprehensive, gripped by the old dread of being “found out”. What could she have found out? And how? Desperately he searched his mind, stirring memories that had long been deliberately buried. As he approached Unter den Linden, his memories transported him back twenty-four years to that fateful journey. He was back on the bus travelling down this same street, a young man of twenty-five setting off on what promised to be a great enterprise.

Lebensborn Boy

THE LONG SHADOW OF THE LEBENSBORN

The subject of the wartime Lebensborn homes and the fate of their former inmates has been much in the news recently, and has been further stimulated by the German-Norwegian film Two Lives. My novel, The Lebensborn Boy, co-written under the pen name of Roy Havelland and based on real events, throws a new and sinister light on the affair.

The story of the novel:

Long after the end of Hitler’s Reich, many are still traumatised by one of its projects – the chain of homes known as Lebensborn (wellspring of life) for unwanted children of German soldiers and women of the occupied countries.

In a Europe divided by the Cold War, the East German intelligence service, the Stasi, is using selected former Lebensborn inmates for its own sinister purposes. In this compelling narrative a Danish family is caught up in a cruel conspiracy.

From the Orwellian world of East Berlin to the fetish clubs of Hamburg’s St Pauli district, and from the death traps of the East-West border to Denmark’s wind-blown Baltic islands, this many-layered story of deception, betrayal and love moves to a shattering climax, which only reaches its astonishing dénouement in the re-united Berlin of 1990.

“George Orwell meets John le Carré” – Irish writer J.H. Brennan.

Available from www.vanadis.org or from http://www.amazon.com.

003

 

The challenge of writing occult fiction

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Here are a few thoughts gleaned from the experience of writing my occult novel Return of the Tetrad, published by Mandrake of Oxford (http://mandrake.uk.net/the-return-of-the-tetrad/).

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A lot depends on whether one is writing for a general audience or for esoterically minded readers. If the former, then the difficulty is to know how much suspension of disbelief one can demand of the reader. Dan Brown’s stories, although full of extraordinary events, are less about the supernatural than about secret societies, conspiracies etc and so involve less suspension of disbelief than the kind of story that postulates a supernatural order of reality. In the latter category are the works of J.K. Rowling and Philip Pullman. Both of these take the reader into another world with its own laws and logic. Because of their skill as writers, we willingly suspend disbelief as a child does when listening to a fairy tale. All of the above authors have successfully established themselves in the mass market.

A different challenge is presented by the niche market – i.e. those readers who already have an esoteric mind-set. These readers are already prepared to accept the premise of a different reality, but this brings its own difficulties. In a world where everything is possible there can be no story, as a story demands limitations. So which limitations is one going to introduce? In Return of the Tetrad, while I ask the reader to accept certain out-of-the-ordinary phenomena such as reincarnation, I have tried to create a tension between a supernatural and a mundane perception of things. But I mustn’t give too much away. Those who read the book will judge whether I have succeeded.

Christopher McIntosh (http://www.ozgard.de)

Aside

Publication announcementIntroducing my novel RETURN OF THE TETRAD.

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Publication announcement.

Introducing my novel RETURN OF THE TETRAD. Published by Mandrake of Oxford (http://mandrake.uk.net/the-return-of-the-tetrad/)- 9 pounds, 99 pence ($15). Kindle e-book, 3 pounds, 25 pence ($5.10)

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Return of the Tetrad is the account of an esoteric adventure cum spiritual quest. Early in the story the narrator, Paul Cairns, chances upon a work by Eliphas Lévi in an Oxford bookshop. Opening it at random, he reads:

“Magic is the traditional science of the secrets of nature which has been transmitted to us from the magi. By means of this science the adept becomes invested with a species of relative omnipotence and can operate super-humanly – that is, after a manner which transcends the normal possibility of man … To attain the sanctum regnum, in other words, the knowledge and power of the magi, there are four indispensable conditions – an intelligence illuminated by study, an intrepidity which nothing can check, a will which nothing can break, and a discretion which nothing can corrupt and nothing intoxicate. TO KNOW; TO DARE; TO WILL; TO KEEP SILENCE – such are the four words of the magus …”

His interest in the esoteric awakened, he hears about a former magical group called the Order of the Sanctum Regnum and a man called Gilbert North, who had once been a leading member of it but now lives the life of a country squire at his stately home, Ravenhurst in Hertfordshire. Later, after leaving Oxford and settling down to married life and a career as a journalist, Paul is troubled by a recurring nightmare and, through the bookseller Arthur Jenkins, is put in touch with Gilbert North, whom he consults about the dream. He becomes a regular visitor at Ravenhurst and is led by North on an extraordinary series of adventures involving a quest for the Tetrad, four primal magical objects corresponding to the elements and suits of the Tarot. Cairns’ life becomes full of weird and supernatural happenings in a great magical battle between dark and light. But in the world of Gilbert North things are not quite what they seem. Layers of reality and unreality are peeled away until the deeper meaning of the quest is revealed.

CHRISTOPHER McINTOSH(http://www.ozgard.de)