Jules Watson, Historical Fiction Author

"Jules Watson has conjured up the mythic past, a
land of Celtic legend and stark grandeur. Readers
will find her world and characters fascinating and unforgettable." -
Sharon Penman, bestselling author of Devil's Brood

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Raven Queen

SPIRIT

I like exploring ideas about spirituality that I gleaned from Celtic mythology and history; mixed in with modern pagan or new-age beliefs. I use these ideas to drive the emotional heart of my stories and the inner journeys of my characters. Of course, people can read my books as romances or adventures: the hints of other layers are mainly there for me, and others who may be interested.

Celtic Belief

Newgrange Triple Spiral
Spirals are an enduring symbol,
used by peoples from the Neolithic
5000 years ago to the Celts and beyond.
The spiral from Newgrange in Ireland
We don’t know much that is concrete about Celtic religion, or how the Celts worshipped beyond a few wooden idols; inscriptions and cult objects from Roman times; some Roman and Greek writings; and the archaeological remains of ritual sites, which are difficult to interpret.

A lot of what people term “Celtic lore” comes from more modern beliefs, dating back to the 19th and 20th centuries.

The problems with Celtic myths I explain on the mythology page. They were written down by monks many hundreds of years after they were initially composed.

Roman writers said the Celts believed in reincarnation, worshipped many different gods and goddesses, venerated nature, and were ruled by priests known as druids. All of these ideas certainly exist in the Irish myths.

Since I write about priestesses, the Mother Goddess and the "sisterhood", people ask me if I am Wiccan, or belong to any pagan groups. The short answer is no!

Strettweg Cart
The Strettweg Cart, Austria
portrays an unknown goddess
presiding over a procession 
I am deeply attracted to what we glean of Celtic beliefs. I long for a time when we were more aligned to the natural world, and felt the sacredness in all things, from streams to trees. I love the idea of women being part of priestess sisterhoods, working with the Otherworld and nature on behalf of their people, exploring the powers of herbs, dreams and trances, nature and the unseen.

But for me, these longings are all expressed and lived through my writing alone. So far, anyway.

 Spirals

The spiral is my favourite symbol, which is why it appears all over this site, and in my books. It is a spiritual motif for many cultures worldwide. Many natural forms are spirals: seashells, DNA, and the patterns of growth in seedheads, flowers and other plants.

Spirals were carved into tombs and rock slabs by many ancient peoples, but we don't know what they meant to them. Some think they are sun god symbols, symbols of the afterlife, or representations of trances or dreams.
 
Spirals are a reflection of the pure mathmatics of the physical universe, the underlying patterns of matter and energy. Many people see them as representing a spirit journey involving eternal growth, for each end of the "line" can keep "spiralling" into eternity in either direction: it is endless. I see the spiral as representing growth and seeking, too. Following the path of a spiral inwards is like delving ever more deeply into the heart of the great spiritual mystery that lies at the core of existence, returning back to the One. Following the spiral path outwards leads to a wider universe of spiritual exploration, an expanding soul connecting with a network of other beings. 

In the Dalriada Trilogy, this is why Rhiann carves a spiral in rock for her dead friend. In The Raven Queen, this is why the druid seeker Ruan tattoos a spiral on his chest (that...and I thought it was sexy...oops!).

The Otherworld

Rannoch Moor
The Celts venerated isolated
lakes and islands as
gateways to the Otherworld
The Celtic Otherworld encapsulates an idea of a parallel realm, full of mystical landscapes and spiritual beings that we rarely experience directly, but of which we gain glimpses. This is not the concept of "Heaven" as a separate place, but an invisible world existing alongside our own, separated by only a thin veil. Here, the gods and the sidhe, known as the Tuatha De Danaan in the Irish myths, reside with the dead before they are reborn.

All sorts of ideas appear to float up inside me almost from otherworldly "memories". Or they feel like they are being “downloaded” from somewhere else. The ether. The Otherworld.

I put all this into my books, which is why my characters have often been priestesses or seers, or in Deirdre’s case, a natural Otherworldly being. In The Raven Queen, for once my heroine, Maeve, was not at all spiritual - but the hero, Ruan, is a druid. He lives by a sacred lake, where the veils to the Otherworld are very thin, and he crosses that veil more than any character from any of my books. So I explore my spiritual interests through my characters exploring their Celtic beliefs.  

But it all comes as it comes: I make no claim about what is genuine Celtic belief from 2000 years ago, or something else, or pure imagination. For those of us similarly entranced by the Otherworld - it doesn’t matter!

Emotional Themes

The emotional journeys of my characters are intimately tied up with my own spiritual explorations, step by step as I wrote each book. 

In The White Mare and The Dawn Stag, Rhiann is recovering from a trauma in her early life. This has closed her off from human love, but she has also lost her connection to her Goddess. I was trying to say that it is her feelings of unworthiness stemming from her old pain that block her from feeling the gods. She has cut herself off; the Goddess has not rejected her. Only when she has the courage to open up to human love do things start to change.

Eventually, she has to realise she is worthy of being spiritually connected to the Mother Goddess - that she deserves that unconditional love. When she accepts that she has always been worthy, and can stand alongside any other soul and be counted, that is when she heals.

Circe by John Waterhouse
Circe by J. Waterhouse, for me
invokes the journey to becoming
a priestess or seer
In The Song of the North, Minna has not been traumatized the same way. Instead, she is thrown into a crisis of identity: who is she really, in her soul? She has to travel far both physically and emotionally to uncover her own spiritual power, and not be afraid of it. She experiences great pain, but this strips away all of what she was before, and then she can embrace her new self: the seer.

Her journey is about discovering the song of her own spirit; what makes her unique. This leads her to her purpose in life, which is to serve people and make a difference to the world.

The Swan Maiden takes this further. Deirdre is trapped in a prison of male decisions, expectations, jealousy, greed and fear. She throws off the shackles of the patriarchy, the kings and druids who rule her and use her as a sexual pawn, and chooses her own life and path to love. 

But on the run, she discovers another level of her emerging power: that of the spiritual, the sacred. She can part the veils of the Otherworld - she is herself on the verge of becoming an Otherworldly being, by realising it is a parallel world lying close beside our own. She learns to harness these new ideas and skills to save her loved ones, and ultimately herself.

It’s about transcending the boundaries and restrictions of this world to discover that beyond the physical, there are no boundaries - no death, no loneliness or isolation, and no separation from Spirit.

In The Raven Queen, the druid hero Ruan also explores these ideas about spiritual connection / separation, and life / death. He also feels unworthy of being connected to the otherworld beings and gods, because of something he feels he did wrong. And he learns we are all worthy, and all have that connection anyway. He teaches Maeve this, but she takes a lot longer to figure it out!

Her journey is about realizing hatred and revenge only keep one locked in the pain of the past, and that walling oneself off after a trauma only leads to terrible loneliness. She is the first of my characters to be a mother, and that is an important evolution for her: to leave hurt and betrayal behind and embrace the transformational power of motherhood. In the end, she also discovers her own spiritual power, and how she can learn to wield that instead of a sword.

The Sidhe: The Quantum Physics of Faeries

Blue Crystal Light
This is a term my husband and I coined for The Swan Maiden and The Raven Queen, tongue in cheek.

I am intrigued by the idea that quantum physics and spiritual beliefs are converging, the more that science discovers what we know, or rather don’t know, about the universe.

In those books, I write about the universe being made of tiny droplets of energy and matter, joined to other "motes" in mysterious ways. Quantum physics has shown particles act in all sorts of weird ways, but even so when we measure them we see what we expect to see. Particles communicate with, or at least act in

So…the world we see is actually just collections of particles vibrating fast, and they might be joined together by some as yet unknown “energy”. This gives rise to many flights of fancy in my books, none of which I claim as mine alone. 

Science does accept that light exists at different frequencies because the particles (or waves!) in a particular beam vibrate at different speeds. We can only perceive some of those frequencies with our eyes. We can’t see the very slow infrared, and we can’t see the very fast ultraviolet. So, if everything is made of vibrating particles, and we cannot experience some known phenomena with our limited senses, surely other things could exist that we cannot perceive?

The matter in "Thisworld" is quite dense, but there might be other realms whose particles vibrate at much faster speeds, making them invisible, unheard, unfelt. There could be other beings, too, who are more energy and less matter, their essence vibrating at higher levels, too. Most people cannot perceive them, and glimpse them only in dreams - but some do sense them, giving rise to paranormal experiences.

I have taken the sidhe, the Celtic faery folk, and made them in my books these unseen beings from other realms, whose substance vibrates faster than ours. In this context, using the theory of particles and the unknown energy, Deirdre sends her spirit into animals, and perceives events far away in distance and even time. In The Raven Queen, this explains how my druid hero Ruan can stray between the Otherworld veils, communicate with the sidhe, and experience prophetic visions.

The quantum physics of faeries!

Rights queries: Russell Galen
at Scovil Galen Ghosh Literary Agency

Publicity queries: Kathleen Rudkin
at Bantam Dell


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