In Ghosts of Bliss Bayou, Abigail Renshaw is a young woman studying magic—a kind of magic formulated by her ancestor and his contemporaries, who founded the town of Harmony Springs in Florida.
Midway through the story, Abby’s grandmother gives her a ring that has been passed down through the family.
She places the ring in my hand, and I feel its energy, like a tiny electric current. The gold is formed into leaves and vines framing a cameo: the white-on-black image of a woman with wild hair, holding a torch.
I’m stunned. “Who is she?”
“Part of the magical lore of the Circle. She’s the Great Goddess Who Shapes All Things.”
The idea for the fictional Circle of Harmony came from the so-called “occult revival” of the late 19th Century, a period when spiritualism and magic became fashionable in Europe and America. During this time, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn flourished. The Golden Dawn espoused a system of magic that drew on many occult sources, including Kabbalah, Tarot, and Rosicrucianism.
Another source of the Golden Dawn system was Neoplatonism, a philosophical tradition of late antiquity. A key document of Neoplatonism is the Chaldean Oracles which survive today only in fragments.
The cosmology of Neoplatonism envisions a divine creative fire, which is the source of the manifest universe. Seated at the portal between this uncreated fire and the world we know is a Goddess Figure. In the Chaldean Oracles, she is named Hekate, after the goddess of the ancient Greeks. A good scholarly summary of this topic can be found in this paper by John D. Turner of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
This idea of a Great Goddess who sits at the threshold between the creative source and the manifest world, is also pictured in the Tarot.
Early in Ghosts of Bliss Bayou, Abby comes across this card in a reading.
But my eyes are drawn to the crown position—the High Priestess. I’ve read that she’s actually a goddess, seated on her throne at the place of balance between the positive and negative polarities of the Universe. I stare at her serene face and her robes. In the picture, the robes turn into a waterfall and then a blue stream that flows away. It flows down through all the other cards that have pictures of water—the Stream of Life that gives birth to everything.
Late in the novel, when Abby is in deep trouble, she encounters the Goddess again, in a vision. Like all magical guides, the Goddess does not solve her problem, but gives her knowledge that might help her solve it herself…
She stares at me, calm and gentle. “What would you ask of me?”
I didn’t expect that. “Umm. There is an evil spirit who wants to kill me—and other people who are dear to me. I must learn how to banish him or…defend us from him.”
She considers before answering. “Behind me are the hidden sources of creation. The river of the Universe flows at my feet. I sit at the gateway between two pillars—light and darkness, love and strife. The contention of these forces causes all things to be. To wield the highest magic, you must station yourself at this gateway, the point of perfect balance. Then your will can shape what flows into manifestation. So all things are possible.”