Women’s History Month guest, Jenny Blackford

One thing I love is reading the thoughts of writers, especially when they discuss their own work. I often return to something I’ve already read, after seeing what the writer has to say, and I then rediscover it. This is the special treat for you today. Read to the end of Jenny’s thoughts, then click on the link and read her poetry. Jenny Blackford is mostly known for rather gorgeous poetry, and we’ve been known to talk history together, so you have here a nice introduction to both sides of her work. She’s a Classicist, and usually (but not always) ventures into a more distant past than me. Gillian

The Priestess’ Daughter, Jenny Blackford

The borderline between pre-Greek, Mycenaean Greek, Dark Age Greek and Classical Greek culture and religion is hazy at best, and has been much argued about for centuries. My most trusted guide to the borderlands is Martin Nilsson, a Swedish scholar born in 1874 who intuited that the rulers of later Palace era Crete, and sites like Mycenae and Pylos on mainland Greece, were the clear predecessors of Classical Greeks, long before Linear B texts were proven to be early Greek.

What struck me most was Nilsson’s intuition that the goddesses depicted in magnificent Cretan seal-stones and frescoes were, or became, our familiar Hera, Athena, and so on. The tall, triumphant goddess who held up a limp lion or a deer in either hand? Artemis, the mistress of wild beasts, the Potnia Theron. The goddess whose epiphany to her worshippers was in the shape of an owl? Athena. The goddess worshipped on the peaks with offerings of rounded stones and shells? I’d love to know.

The palaces are fascinating, but as a woman of the working class, I am always interested in the lives of “ordinary” people far from the wealthy centre of things. The priestess’s daughter in my poem just published in Heroic Fantasy Quarterly was one of them. She lived on a hillside far north of Mycenae. Her father came from far away ā€“ but ever since I started reading archaeology books, people have been saying that there was more trade, more travel, and more intermixing than anyone had previously understood. I suspect that every generation just forgets that crucial insight.

I hope you enjoy this story of the priestess’s daughter and her encounter with the nymphs of the spring. The nymphs were (and even last century, according to ethnologists, still were) the fae of ancient Greece ā€“ powerful and terrifying, close to immortal, and ruthless as their northern cousin Titania. The Classical Greeks treated them with fear-tinged awe.

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