Did vampires exist before Dracula? What were they like? Did they venture into the sun? Did they suck blood?
Julia Smith has written a fascinating book SAINT SANGUINUS that answers these questions and more. Her vampires exist around the year 577.
Julie is a multitalented person. Among other things, she has a film degree from Ryerson University in Toronto. She writes and directs book trailers, documentaries and a radio series. She’s also edited a promotional video, stage managed 'The Children's Hour' at The Pond Playhouse in Halifax, and been an assistant director for 'Dracula' at Seaweed Theatre in Halifax.
I know Julia from her first rate blog which lately has featured vampires.
Thanks for hosting me today at The Otherworld Diner. I’ve been a visitor for several years, now, and always enjoy the cherry pie.
To celebrate tomorrow’s release of my ebook SAINT SANGUINUS through Amazon Kindle, here are thirteen things about the time period in which my Dark Age vampire superhero origin story is set:
1 – SAINT SANGUINUS takes place 160 years following the retreat of Rome from British territories.
With no occupying military force in place, the simmering power plays between tribes had risen to shape daily life in 577, the year in which my story takes place.
This time period has attracted me since childhood. I found myself mesmerized by the exact same fluctuations following the collapse of the Soviet Union in eastern Europe. When there is no iron fist holding down the locals, the power vacuum must be filled—and it takes no time for the jockeying to start.
2 – Tribal power structure was based upon mini kingdoms. The main kingdom established by Cunedda or Cunedag in the area in which the novel takes place was subdivided among his sons, resulting in nine mini kingdoms. The weakening of centralized power by subdividing these lands made the west coastal region of Gwenydd ripe for plunder by the advancing Anglo Saxons.
3 – The tribes that made up Wales in the 6th century were part of a larger cultural group known as Britons.
In Peredur’s western coastal region, the Ordovices and Gangani tribes inhabited the area where the story takes place. Both peoples were known as fighters.
One of the brethren is a Brigante, the broader group of tribes claiming what is now known as northern England.
Another is referred to in the story as a Pict, although that is for modern convention, as no one ever referred to himself as a Pict during the 6th century. ‘Pechts’, however, was the Old Scottish term for the unconquered people living far beyond Hadrian’s Wall.
4 – Irish raiders plundered Welsh coastal settlements for slaves in the 6th century. In a few more centuries, Viking raiders made regular stops in Dublin which had become a centralized hub of slave trading, moving captured villagers from Britain to Scandinavia.
These are the raiders which Peredur and his war band go off to fight at the beginning of the book.
5 – Tribal fighting was a way of life. They loved to make war upon an enemy and much of their culture was devoted to fighting. They decorated their weapons lovingly, and collected trophy heads as an expression of ritualized violence and prestige.
Unfortunately, this lust for war prevented any sort of cohesive desire for presenting a unified front to a larger enemy like the Saxon invaders.
6 – Although modern assumptions of this time period tends to imagine an extremely primitive existence, because of the prior Roman occupation, there were many holdover traditions borrowed from the absent conquerors. This included the appetite for traded goods from far-off places.
Archeological finds during the 1980s revealed red roof tiles on buildings that had been concealed by later renovations upon various British market sites. The current British road system is often simply overlaid upon the original routes laid out by Roman engineers.
Besides the carry-over of Iron Age subsistence farming, hunting and fishing, Peredur’s world would have included markets that featured imported goods from Europe, a coin system as well as barter, and artisan production in metal, leather and jewelry.
7 – Celtic tribes owned their clan lands as a communal enterprise. A leader’s wealth was measured not by land ownership but by the size of his cattle or sheep herd. Tanwen’s father is the recognized chief both by demonstrated fighting skills and his sheep herd.
8 – Clothing worn at this time was simple long robes for women, and tunics and leggings for men, along with cloaks against the cold and damp.
Woven wool and linen, dyed in simple neutrals, browns, reds, greens and blues would be combined with leather and ornamental metals. Fur for warmth and decoration was also highly prized, as were feathers.
9 – The most common foods which Peredur and Tanwen would have eaten were grain porridge, bread, salted meat, bean, milk, some raised vegetables such as cabbage, and stew. Fresh roasted meat was generally only eaten during celebrations or feasts.
10 – Peredur’s people worshipped Cernunnos the stag-horned god representing male energy, and Epona, the female horse goddess. They also venerated various healing deities located in holy springs or wells, rivers, lakes and the sea.
The Arthurian figure known as the Lady of the Lake who is the keeper of Excalibur is a well-known example of this sort of minor goddess.
11 – The early Welsh believed that rowan trees held mystical properties offering protection against dark forces.
Known as the traveler’s tree because it acted as such a distinct landmark, the rowan makes a significant though unheralded appearance in SAINT SANGUINUS as Peredur is tied to one of these trees in order to better navigate a trial that takes him to uncharted internal landscapes.
12 – The Celtic harvest festival of Sanhaim, where they marked the passing of the world into its darker half, also celebrated a festival of the dead. While honoring their deceased ancestors, the Celts also protected themselves from evil influences by trying to trick these darker spirits through masks and costumes.
They also reinforced their clan ties by lighting a bonfire, extinguishing all family fires and then relighting their hearth fires from the communal bonfire.
13 – Peredur’s fellow villager Cavan is the son of the wise woman, the healer of the clan. She would have performed all of the duties we now associate with the medical health profession, using the herbal remedies available to her, as well as cultural belief rituals.
However, these wise women were most often shunned as supernatural beings, and later hunted, tortured and put to death as witches. The very faith which the local population held in her healing powers also made them fear her enough to insist that she live on the margins of their society.
We hope you've enjoyed learning about life in 577. To find out more please visit Julia at www.juliaphillipssmith.com or leave your question in the comments. As always, we look forward to hearing from you.