Monday, November 2, 2009

Winter Awakening The Dawn of Newgrange

Before the medieval age around the time of 3200 B.C., it is said the Tuatha De' Danann(the ancient gods and goddesses of Irlenad) built  a burial place for the great king Dagda Mo'r.  Newgrange, a megalithic mound was erected near the Boyne Valley in Ireland is thought to have taken over twenty years to build and has been called everything from a burial site and gathering place for tribes, to a the site of the home of the goddess of love, Oenghus.  It is said to be hundreds of years older than the Great Pyramid in Egypt and at least 1000 years older than Stonehenge.

The neolithic farmers of that day relied on the change of seasons--planning their lives and their crops around the changes, offering fertility rites, prayers and offerings, scarifices and fire festivals at these designated gathering places. Precisely built, its measurements and intricate carvings have not changed over thousands of years.

On the dawn of Winter's Solstice, the light of the rising sun enters what is called the "roofbox" penetrating the passage, illuminating the chamber floor until it reaches the inner room. The entire process takes no more than 14-17 minutes to achieve. What makes this event even more interesting is one theory which states it was built as a symbol of the god of the light penetrating the womb of the mother earth--ensuring new life in a few months time. Sort of gives the shortness of time from start to finsih a whole new conotation, doesn't it?;)

Regardless, it is considered a sacred place, where gods and goddesses were worshipped and where seasons, time, and astronomy were defined by those who relied on the earth as we would rely on our watches and IPhones.

In the prologue for WINTERS DESIRE, we used the image of our druid priestess and her wounded Viking warrior as the setting for their secret forbidden affair.

On the dawn of Winter's Solstice, after her lover has healed and leaves her, saying they can never be together, she steps out into the moring light and arms raised, offers a prayer to the gods and goddesses above that he would one day return. Her chant is caught on the winter wind and becomes a legend that possesses undying magical power--revived in the secret wishes of the human heart...

In WINTER AWAKENING, Sabeline the headstrong only daughter of a Welsh king who by agreement has become a prince in order to have the protection from the King of England. To further the strength of his alliance and secure more lands and armies for England he orders one of his Marcher lords to marry the young princess. In the event that anything happens to her father, she would inherit not only her father's land, but her mother's as well as the armies and entitlements of both parents. Invited to the kings court one summer to meet her betrothed, Sabeline discovers all too quickly that her intended has little interest in her and more interest in buxom serving wench.

Rescued from certain humailation, she finds herself in teh arms of Sir Ranulf, her intended's older and wiser mentor and friend, who comforts her in an older brother fashion. But her heart is smitten with Sir Ranulf, despite his attempts to sway her otherwise and his honorable rejection of her awkward advances gives her hope in the years that follow that he will have considerable influence on her intended, Sir Benedict.

Alas, Benedict has only grown more unscrupulous and Sir Ranulf more handsome and charming. She is torn between duty  to her father and the secret desires of her heart, until a druid seer shows her an ancient chant born of the magic of winter's solstice that could change the course of her life if she has the courage to follow it through.

This scene is the summer at court, where Sabeline and Sir Ranulf meet for the first time, after her betrothed declines to dance and Ranulf steps in saving face for the young princess. It will be several years before they meet again. Here they are conversing about the needs of men verses the needs of women.

Winter Awakening

“I see, so while you believe the union of a man and woman is a sacred act, you would agree it permissible to enjoy the benefit of the union, but forsake the commitment of marriage. For I assume, milord, a virile man such as you does not practice celibacy?”

I blinked as I held her questioning gaze and wondered how in the devil we got into this conversation. Concerned that others might hear and misunderstand, I steered her gently out onto the flagstone terrace outside the great hall. With the music still playing too loud to speak, I guided her carefully down the stone steps that lead to the castle garden. At the bottom, I turned to face her and blurted a candid warning.

“Lady Sabeline, please forgive me, but I do not find these questions proper for one who is not your intended.” I took a deep breath and cast a glance to the sky, taking a second look as I appreciated the vast clear summer sky awash with stars. There, I had settled my tension. I looked at her with a congenial smile.

Her brows rose. “Then it is all well and good that we understand that my intended has his needs and thus is purely within his rights to appease them without quarrel?”

I sighed as I paced back and forth in front of her. She had a point perhaps, but a true lady could not afford to take such liberties as did a man. “It is not the way it is done,” I stated as plainly as I could praying that the conversation would no go further. Having to stand alone with her too long beneath a moonlit sky caused me unease. After all, it had been a long time since I had held a woman in my arms, tasted the pliant sweetness of a woman’s mouth.

“Then perhaps the way it is done should be revisited, milord. For in truth, are not a woman’s needs as great as a man’s?”

Oh, great goddess in heaven!  This was far more than I was prepared for. I started past her up the steps, hoping she took well my meaning. It was far too dangerous, this conversation about unions.  "Excuse me, I must get back to the banquet hall.”

“Are we finished then, milord, because you say that it is so?”

She turned to look up at me with a defiant look, her chin held high. I was going to regret going back down those stairs to meet her face-to-face. “Despite your age—“

“I am a grown woman, Sir Ranulf.” She leveled me a look that I should have seen as warning. “Old by English standards of marriage,” she added dryly.

“It is well known that a lady is able to control her needs. It is, by nature’s design that a man cannot. It has been determined that it can affect even a man’s health.”

She looked at me with a startled expression, a smile lifting from the corner of the mouth. “And how is your health, Sir Ranulf?”

My gaze rested on her mouth, the same one that had tempted me from the moment we met. I realized she was teasing me. She began to laugh.

I glanced to the top of the stairs, hoping that no one heard her laughter and question why she and I were out here alone. My concerns unfounded, there was no one in sight. We were quite alone and I was no more comfortable with the wicked thoughts skating at the edge of my brain.

“I do not know, Sir Ranulf,” she said, “which I find more amusing. The fact that men cannot control their desires or that you truly believe that a woman should.”

I had the foolish wish that she might act upon her current need—or mine. But to risk getting caught would by certainty ruin her reputation. Still, I could not help but poke back at her with a harmless challenge of my own. “Are you saying, milady, that you have no wish to control your desires?”

Her laughter waned as I stared at her. Just one kiss to purge the curiosity of showing her the passion of a grown man, not one who had no idea of the prize he was being given. Somehow I found justification, shallow though it was, to appease my desire.

I took her face in my hands and brought my mouth to her lips, intent on taking a quick taste, but one was not enough, so I took another. I was lost in the sweetness of her sigh, how she trembled when I touched her. I urgently stepped away, pushing my hands through my hair to keep from touching her again.

She licked her lips as she met my confused gaze.

“My apologies,” I stated. “I lost control of my emotions for a moment.”

“Shall I no longer be a lady in your eyes, milord, if I were to admit my desire for you?” she whispered, her finger brushing over my lower lip.

“Sabeline, I am old enough to be—“

She lifted to her toes and kissed me fully, her soft hands cupping my face.

“This cannot be.” I lowered my head, seeking every grain of nobleness in me. But my mind warred with my need to have her, to take her into the garden shadows and give her that which she claimed to want.

“But what of my desire?” she asked as her hand slid between us, stroking the length hardening even now beneath my breeches. Her mouth teased mine. It was then that I realized this was a game to her. I caught her hands, holding them between mine.

“You are young yet and do not fully understand the power of your desire.” I swallowed hard as I stepped away from her. “Excuse me, milady.” I headed back to the banquet.

“Milord, when will you be old enough to understand yours?” she called after me.

More excerpts to come ! I'd like to hear what your favorite winter tradition is! Leave a comment and be entered to win an autographed coverflat of Winters Desire and a Celtic Spice sport bottle!  And coming up tomorrow--the fantabulous gifts including the Gods of Football "Naked for a Cause" calendar!  Pics you'll want to enjoy long after the year has passed;))



Kristina Cook/Kristi Astor said...

Ahhh, Newgrange....such an atmospheric place! I really *am* going to dig out my Ireland pictures one day soon and upload them to a post. I've got Newgrange, the Hill of Tara, and other cool stuff, too.

Winter know, I wish I had one (other than Christmas traditions). But I don't. How sad is that?! Maybe because I mostly grew up in Florida, where there wasn't much in the way of winter?

Maybe I need to start something new this year! You've inspired me...

Charlotte Featherstone said...

Ooh, winter traditions. Sunday skating at the local rink. So much fun, and we used to flirt with all the boys from the hockey teams! ;)

And that leads into homemade donuts dipped in cinnamon sugar and a cup of homemade hot chocolate. Ahhhhh, those were the days.

I have been to Newgrange, but I've been to many standing stones, and the Orkney's where they have fabulous iron age stones. The Celts really were beautiful, artistic builders.

Linda Henderson said...

The only winter traditions our family has is when we get enough snow for the first time we take the kids outside and show them how to build a snowman. We get more ice than snow here so some winters there isn't enough snow for this. We also like to put winter type decorations in the yard.

Amanda McIntyre said...

Kristi, for some that may be Christmas traditions--for others maybe Hannakuh--traditionally Winter Solstice falls around December 21--also a celebration of St Stephens Day. I think all of the old Celtic and Roman readtions tend to meld together, if you look back far enough.

I know when I was researching for Winter Awakening and Tortured, I discovered the origin of many of our Christmas traditions are actually very Celtic oriented.

Which is why I find it interesting that now,the term "pagan" seems associated with satanic rituals and the witches of Hollywood--rather than its original roots.

and Jen--hockey guys, IMO, are by far the cutest of all sports teams--exception maybe of those Aussie Gods of Football, I won't lie.


Charlotte Featherstone said...

Ooooh, hockey hunks are hawt, with their teeth in, of course!!! lol!

Can't be a good small town Canadian girl without falling for the hockey dudes, and getting to wear their 'team' jacket! ;)

Cecile said...

Oh Amanda, I love the excerpt you have given us... and I want more. I can not wait for my copy to come in the mail!!!!!!!!!!!

As far as winter traditions... I seem to be faced with the same problem as Kristina, being from Louisiana, we really don't have any other tradition than Christmas. Hunting of course for the men of the family. But other than that... None that I can think of. Hummm.... OH wait... we do have a tradition that we started when I moved in with hubby... We (him, daughter and I) go pick out a Christmas tree together. It is a group effort.
I can not wait to get my hands on that Calendar... OMG!!!! I want it! =) Or them should I say, lol!!
I hope you ladies have a wonderful day!

PS... Lord Craven Moore... Your name speaks volumes to me... Miss you... Or should I say... Been Craving you moore!!!

CheekyGirl said...

Congrats on the new release ladies!

Amanda McIntyre said...

Thats an awesome tradition, Linda! We tend to get more ice between now and January as well. It didnt used to be that way. I can remember lots of snow by the time Thanksgiving (third week in Nov) came around--now we've celebrated that holiday with the windows open and playing football in the backyard!

Ice, but challenging LOL


Amanda McIntyre said...

Do many of you put up your trees just after November 25th? I know thats the biggest sale date for our Lions Club tree lot!

I've only tromped out in a field and picked out my own tree with our kids once--from then on it was a fraser fir from the Lions Club tree lot--so Charlie Brown, I know! ;))



Amanda McIntyre said...

Thanks CG for the shout out!!:))


Amanda McIntyre said...

Congrats to Linda Henderson! You win a Celtic Spice sports bottle and a multi-autographed coverflat of Winters Desire!! Congratulations!
Email me with your info and we'll get that sent out to you straight away! sned to

More fantastic prizes to come!

Linda Henderson said...

Thank you very much. I appreciate you drawing my name.

Anonymous said...

Agree with Kristina Cook - Newgrange and the other sites around it, Knowth and Dowth, well worth a visit. Loads of other historical sites nearby - Battle of the Boyne, Slane valley & castle, abbeys - and even the severed head (not just the skull, the head) of martyred St oliver Plunkett, downstream in Drogheda.
The Newgrange guides very charming. I was there with my children last week.

Amanda McIntyre said...

Blackwatertown,have you been at Newgrange,then at Winter Solstice? Can you tell us about your experience?

If you live in this area, I'd love to ask you a couple of questions
email me at

its a fascinating place.


Anonymous said...

I have been at Newgrange for Winter Solstice.
Anyone can apply to be there too. There's a raffle run at the visitor centre. I think 100-120 names are chosen - 20 for each of the days when the sun illuminates the central chamber. However, I think about 20,000 people join the raffle.
It was a very blustery windy morning when I was at Newgrange for the solstice. There was a small group to go inside - maybe a dozen.
I suppose it could be an eerie experience for some people, effectively underground, surrounded by tons of rubble and rocks, in what is essentially a room for the dead (as far as we know.
But I felt very comfortable, and sheltered from the wind.
I had been before as a child, so it felt familiar. The main difference was the greater likelihood of braining myself on one of the overhead stones.
I felt very lucky to be able to be there at that time. One of the perks of a job I used to do.
I write briefly about my most recent visit to Newgrange in October here