You must meet Maeve, the Celtic Magdalen, the heroine of the four novels in Elizabeth Cunningham’s The Maeve Chronicles. From her beginnings on the Celtic Island of Women Tír Na mBán, to “Druid School” on the Isle of Mona, and then on to Rome, the Galilee, southern France, and then back to Britain when Queen Boudicca of the Iceni was battling for her tribe and her sovereignty, Maeve has see it all. Her sensibilities are both ancient and modern, and make her one of fiction’s most powerful, enduring characters.
Elizabeth reads excerpts from Magdalen Rising, in which Maeve meets the Cailleach and gets her first sex-ed lesson from her warrior witch mothers and from Red Robed Priestess, the final novel in the series.
Elizabeth Cunningham is a novelist, poet, musician, and counselor based in New York’s Hudson Valley. She is the author and illustrator of The Book of Madge, a graphic novel, and the source of her best known work, The Maeve Chronicles. Her earlier novels include The Wild Mother, The Return of the Goddess, and How to Spin Gold. Her debut mystery novel Murder at the Rummage Sale and its sequel All the Perils of this Night (which can also be read as a stand-alone thriller), and most of her previous novels, will be reprinted by Monkfish Book Publishing in 2023 and 2024.
When I picked up the first “Maeve book” over a decade ago, I felt an instant jolt of recognition. I felt the same when I met Maeve’s creator, Elizabeth Cunningham at a writing workshop a few years later. Since then, Elizabeth has become a mentor and guide to me, helping me birth my own book (and all of my creative endeavors!)
In our chat, we explore:
* “Sovereignty, Maeve, belonging to yourself. Your own terms. Sovereignty is your birthright and your inheritance.”
* “A story is true as long as it’s well told”: the power of contemporary fiction to shape the imaginal realm.
* How Maeve’s story fits other beliefs about Mary Magdalene as disciple or as keeper of the divine blood line.
* Maeve’s origin story and how she was born of the need for a “human goddess”
* The romanticization of Celtic culture and Elizabeth’s reservations about writing about the Celts once she learned of their brutality and penchant for head hunting
* Representations of different kinds of sovereignty in women: as lover, healer, mother, disciple, brothel owner
* Sex work, prostitution, and priestesshood
* Maeve’s first experience as a healer: a companion’s botched abortion
* What it’s like to create a character who walks with you for more than 30 years: Elizabeth calls Maeve her Best Imaginary Friend Forever
Music at the start of the show is by Beth Sweeney and Billy Hardy, a Celtic Fiddle and multi-instrumental duo based on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. The traditional Irish reel we play at the start of the show is called "The College Groves." billyandbeth.com
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