In Beneath the Hallowed Hill, I imagine Avalon (the Isle of Glass, Glastonbury) as it might have been. My Morgen le Fey is not a jealous witch out to kill her brother the king, but a great oracle. The power of the twin springs and the Tor still exist today. In her series, Alayna Williams imagines that the famous Delphic Oracle has survived into the present.
Ancient and Modern Oracles
by Alayna Williams
The Delphic Oracle is probably the most famous oracle of the ancient world. The priestess of the Temple of Apollo, the Pythia, wielded a great deal of political influence over leaders who sought both her advice and the advice of the priestesses who served the temple. The Temple of Apollo was sited over a crevasse in the earth emitting noxious vapors, leading to modern-day speculation that the Pythia’s visions were not sendings from Apollo, but toxic hallucinations. The Delphic Oracle operated from roughly the eight century BC until 393 AD, when all pagan oracles were ordered to be dismantled by the Emperor. After that, no one knows what became of the priestesses.
I was intrigued by the idea of an order of women exerting subtle and powerful influence over the ancient world. I wondered what would happen if that order of priestesses went underground and survived to the modern day. What would their role in world events be? In Dark Oracle, the title of Pythia is handed down through generations of women, all oracles with their own unique talent for foreseeing the future. Delphi’s Daughters are a secret organization, nudging world events and gathering information through vast networks of helpers. Their behavior is sometimes sinister, sometimes pure, but always secretive. No one but the Pythia herself knows how the puzzle of world events fits together, and her priestesses are often left in the dark, guessing at her motives.
In the worlds of Dark Oracle and Rogue Oracle, the current Pythia is a pyromancer. She sees the future in dancing flames. The heroine of the story, Tara Sheridan, is a cartomancer who uses Tarot cards to create criminal profiles. Other characters have abilities with scrying, astronomy, and geomancy. Delphi’s Daughters come from all walks of life: they are physicists, soccer moms, artists, farmers, and dancers. They are women just like women you know and walk past on the street. But they are women with a secret.
Tara’s talents were a challenge to create. Use of Tarot cards requires both an intellectual understanding of the ancient symbolism of the cards, as well as the ability to make intuitive leaps from the cards to one’s current situation. Using the cards in her work as a profiler, Tara spends a great deal of time in her own head. She’s not a brash woman who rushes into situations with guns blazing. She’s a thinker, a planner, and it’s simply not in her analytical nature to shoot off at the mouth — or with her guns — when she can get her mission accomplished using less attention-getting means. She is accustomed to having to hide her talents from the people with whom she works, which makes her very circumspect… and isolated. Especially since she’s survived an attack by a serial killer that has left her scarred for life. She’s withdrawn from her work as a profiler and as a member of Delphi’s Daughters.
In thinking about how such an order might survive into the modern world, I imagined the limitations inherent in being an oracle in a secret organization. It would require secrecy, sacrificing a large part of one’s life, and committing to a larger ideal. I decided that, as time passed, fewer and fewer women would be interested in unquestioningly serving Delphi’s Daughters. In Dark Oracle, the order is dying out. Tara Sheridan has left the order after her mother died, refusing to return. After surviving an attack by a serial killer that left her scarred for life, she is unable to bear children. And there are no young women in Delphi’s Daughters any longer.
The Pythia must try to continue the line, whatever the cost. She is challenged to convince the rebellious Tara to return. Or she must find new blood to move into the future, a new order for a new age. And blood will be spilled in the process.
Alayna Wiliams (a.k.a. Laura Bickle) has worked in the unholy trinity of politics, criminology, and technology for several years. She lives in the Midwestern U.S. with her chief muse, owned by four mostly-reformed feral cats. Writing as Laura Bickle, she’s the author of EMBERS and SPARKS for Pocket – Juno Books. Writing as Alayna Williams, she’s the author of DARK ORACLE and ROGUE ORACLE. More info on her urban fantasy and general nerdiness is here: www.salamanderstales.com
Blurb for ROGUE ORACLE:
The more you know about the future, the more there may be to fear.
Tara Sheridan is the best criminal profiler around – and the most unconventional. Trained as a forensic psychologist, Tara also specializes in Tarot card reading. But she doesn’t need her divination skills to realize that the new assignment from her friend and sometime lover, Agent Harry Li, is a dangerous proposition in every way.
Former Cold War operatives, all linked to a top-secret operation tracking the disposal of nuclear weapons in Russia, are disappearing. There are no bodies, and no clues to their whereabouts. Harry suspects a conspiracy to sell arms to the highest bidder. The cards – and Tara’s increasingly ominous dreams – suggest something darker. Even as Tara sorts through her feelings for Harry and her fractured relationships with the mysterious order known as Delphi’s Daughters, a killer is growing more ruthless by the day. And a nightmare that began decades ago in Chernobyl will reach a terrifying endgame that not even Tara could have foreseen…
ROGUE ORACLE is available now from Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.