Night of Pan,
by Gail StricklandGenre: young-adult, historical-fantasyPublisher: Curiosity Quills PressDate of Release: November 7, 2014Series: Book One of The Oracle of Delphi TrilogyCover Artist: Ricky Gunawan
The slaughter of the Spartan Three Hundred at Thermopylae, Greece 480 BCE—when King Leonidas tried to stop the Persian army with only his elite guard—is well known. But just what did King Xerxes do after he defeated the Greeks?Fifteen-year-old Thaleia is haunted by visions: roofs dripping blood, Athens burning. She tries to convince her best friend and all the villagers that she’s not crazy. The gods do speak to her.
And the gods have plans for this girl.
When Xerxes’ army of a million Persians marches straight to the mountain village Delphi to claim the Temple of Apollo’s treasures and sacred power, Thaleia’s gift may be her people’s last line of defense.
Her destiny may be to save Greece…
…but is one girl strong enough to stop an entire army?
RealityWhat did the Ancients think about Reality? And what can we learn from them?
The 5th Century Oracle of Elea Parmenides said we travel “all through all there is” and that “what-is is—un-generated and imperishable; whole, single-limbed, steadfast and complete; nor was it once; nor will it be, since it is, now, altogether, One, continuous.” (Trans. Peter Kingsley, REALITY, 2004)
What in the world does this mean? The philosopher Heraclitus said, “From all things one and from one all things.” He believed in the cyclic and ever-changing appearances of reality. But can it be argued as in the essay out of the University at Albany that Parmenides and Heraclitus are saying the same thing? “What Parmenides was after, then, is the truth behind appearances, and what he was saying is that becoming and change are merely appearances; true being is changeless.”
Plato, a Greek philosopher born around 428 BCE, discussed the distinction between the ever-changing world we perceive with our five senses and what he refers to in his Dialogues in The Republic as the unchanging and unseen world of forms. In The Republic, Plato’s mentor Socrates expresses the most concrete and famous explanation of the contrast between the apparent reality we perceive with our senses and the archetypal world of form in The Allegory of the Cave. This allegory is written as a dialogue between Plato’s brother Glaucon and his mentor Socrates.
As related by Socrates, our human existence is imagined to be like prisoners in a dank, dark cave, chained in such a way that throughout our entire lives we can only see the stonewall before us. Imagine that shadows are cast on the blank wall by objects passing before a fire behind us. For us, these shadows are reality. We give the shadows names and relate to them with our emotions. Now imagine a brave philosopher escapes the chains, turns around and sees the fire’s light and the people, animals, trees and pottery that create the shadows. Would the prisoners who still only see the shadows on the wall believe the one who escaped, the one who sees the fire and the forms passing before the firelight? And if that escaped prisoner leaves the cave and steps outside to stare blindly at the wild and brilliant sun, will the prisoners ever believe what he describes is beyond the cave walls or—or in our case—what is beyond in our universe? For Plato has Socrates explain that it is the duty of the philosopher—even risking death because of the misguided prisoners’ fear—to return to the dark cave and tell the others that they are watching shadows. Galileo was placed on house arrest for the rest of his life, because he explained the earth circles around the sun. Socrates was murdered by the state, given a hemlock cocktail for “corrupting the youth,” when he urged them to understand that outside the cave is the light: the Good … and later philosophers say… the One.
Which circles us back to the idea expressed by Parmenides that true being is changeless. And that sounds a lot like some theories we find from modern physicists, when they attempt to prove that we live in an holographic universe, a universe perhaps in which we are only seeing “the shadows on the cave wall” cast by a light we do not see or understand.
Night of Pan is almost completely based on history. While Thaleia, my young Oracle of Delphi is a fictional character, her prophesies about the Persian invasion 480 BCE are all based on real oracles declared by a young girl who was a respected seer. We know about her from translations from the famous Greek historian Herodotus. That's one of the amazing things about all this! The Pythia-Oracle actually declared all those prophecies, and an entire civilization listened.You may have heard about the million Persians invading and defeating the three hundred Spartan warriors at Thermopylae ... all in my book.
When King Leonidas of the Spartans asked the Oracle what he should do about the invaders, she answered, "Either a great king or a great kingdom will die." Many historians believe that is the primary reason King Leonidas sent most of the soldiers away and sacrificed himself and his elite guard of three hundred. He thought it was the only way to save his kingdom--by sacrificing his own life.
When the Persian army was only a day’s march away, the citizens of Delphi came to the young Oracle and asked if they should hide the women and children and treasures. She answered, "Trust Apollo, he will protect his own."
What really blows me away is that they listened to her and did exactly what she said. This is true history. Incredible. When the Persians marched through the narrow mountain path into Delphi, there was a huge earthquake and thunderstorm. King Xerxes and his army ran away never to return, because they were convinced that the gods were against them. Do you find that as amazing as I do? There were four prophecies in all about the Persians invading, and I have incorporated them throughout my book.
Many of the characters in Night of Pan are also out of history. Parmenides, the wise seer, was real. He lived around 480 BCE and many of the words I have him speak are based on translations of fragments that were found in southern Greece. Valmiki
You Can't Kill the SongThere’s a secret I want to share with you that I learned from the ancient Greeks. In fact, I first learned it from Homer, the blind poet. I found it in the first three words of his epic poem, The Iliad. Some of you may groan: I read that book in high school or for humanities in college. It’s filled with death and gore and long lists of dead heroes. That’s all true. But there are those three short words at the beginning of the 15,000 lines that make up his story of the Greeks at Troy fighting for the return of beautiful Helen, fighting even the gods: Menin aeida thea … sing to us goddess of the wrath.
Now, Homer didn’t say, “Yo! Send me a text message. Or even … just email me about that anger of Achilles.”
He asked the goddess to sing about the wrath of Achilles. And that was not a mistake. That was not even just an idle phrase that Homer used without really thinking about it. And this is where young men and women will undoubtedly understand better than older folk. Homer asked the goddess to sing the entire song of Achilles, all 15,000 lines because ancient Greece was a song culture, a world in which they knew in their hearts the universal language and power of song. Young people know this. Whether it’s Adele singing, “There’s a fire, burning in my heart.” Or Mick Jagger singing, “I can’t get no satisfaction” it’s the same as the Greek song culture.
The Greeks called it thumos—Heart. Longing. Yearning.
The younger generation usually lives that way. They live by their hearts. They understand the power and secret knowledge that is found between the words, in the magic of the music’s yearning shared between the performer and the audience. But as we grow older, as we worry about mortgages and bills and aching muscles, some of us forget to listen to the song surrounding us.
We’ve all felt it. Do you remember? That’s the reason songs we first heard when we were thirteen or fifteen will always fill us in a way that stays with us our entire lives. And the secret is, that music fills us with the longing and yearning of youth, with the direct connection we felt in our bodies to the music.
There was a wise Oracle who lived in southern Italy in the fifth century BCE. He was so powerful, that his followers claimed he was an Iomantris—a healer who could cross the veil between Life and Death. He could travel to the Underworld and return whenever he wanted. That man’s name was Parmenides. He wrote that thumos carries us “all through all there is.” Thumos is yearning and heart and longing. It brings us together in community. It urges us to write songs and poetry and books. It’s the reason man walked on the moon.
I want to share a secret with you. A secret understood by the ancient Greek song culture that survived for over two thousand years: You can’t kill the song—that power caught in the subtle resonance between musical notes and words, between the artist and the audience. That song is heart and yearning … it is everything. It will lead us to the stars. It will guide us to ourselves.
So, don’t text me or email me. Walk along a dark sand beach beside the sea and let’s sing and dance together … and don’t ever let anyone kill your song.
While studying the Classics in college, Gail Strickland translated much of Homer’s ILIAD and ODYSSEY, Herodotus’ prophecies and THE BACCHAI by Euripides. Living on the Greek islands after college, she discovered her love of myth, the wine-dark sea and retsina.
THE BALTIMORE REVIEW and WRITER’S DIGEST have recognized Gail’s fiction. She published stories and poems in Travelers’ Tales’ anthologies and the San Francisco Writer’s anthology. Her poetry and photography were published in a collection called CLUTTER.
Born in Brooklyn, New York, Gail grew up in Northern California. She raised her children; was a musical director for CAT children’s theater; taught music in schools; mentored young poets and novelists and introduced thousands of youngsters to piano and Greek mythology. Gail is passionate about bringing the richness of Homer’s language and culture to today’s youth.
Find Gail Strickland Online:
It’s great to be here amongst lovers of books, art … and of course, coffee! Thank you to Sarit for inviting me.
My name is Gail Strickland. My historical fantasy NIGHT OF PAN just launched. This very day, as a matter of fact, as I sit before my fire and write to you. The best way I can describe NIGHT OF PAN … a mythic journey of a young Oracle in ancient Greece … is to ask you a question:
Do you think the Oracle was a drug-crazed teenager manipulated by politically-savvy priests?
Was she simply high on ethylene fumes that we know leaked from the fissure beneath her sacred tripod-seat located in the bowels deep beneath the Temple of Apollo?
Many modern historians—I’ve even heard it on the History Channel—claim that was the case. They insist that the priests had information from an entire political network from Egypt to Sumeria, Bactria (which is our modern Afghanistan) and the Levant. Therefore, the priests must have controlled the hapless and drugged village girl.
NIGHT OF PAN reveals a different story.
As a classicist in college, I learned ancient Greek. With great fascination, I’ve translated Homer, Euripides and some of the fascinating philosopher Parmenides.
I also translated the four Persian prophecies we have handed down to us for over two thousand years from the Greek historian Herodotus:
Pray to the winds. They will be mighty allies for the Greeks.
Either a great king or kingdom will fall.
Two for the Athenian delegation who came to the Oracle wanting to know if the million Persians descending from the north would destroy Athens:
a. Now your statues are standing and pouring sweat. They shiver with dread. The black blood drips from the highest rooftops. Get out, get out of my sanctum and drown your spirits in woe.The point I want to make here is that every single one of these prophecies came true! And two of them had to do with acts of nature. How could the priests have controlled these? There was a major storm off the coast from the famous battle of Thermopylae that destroyed one third of the hard-to-maneuver Persian ships.
b. A wall of wood alone shall be un-captured.
Trust Apollo, he will protect his own.
And the last prophecy was the most dramatic. The citizens of Delphi came to the girl-Oracle and asked if they should hide the women and children and treasures. She told them to trust Apollo. What amazes me is they did exactly that! Can you imagine being high on a mountain in a tiny village and NOT hiding from an army a million strong (according to Herodotus)? When the army marched into the mountain pass, there was an earthquake and thunderstorm that cast massive boulders in the path before the army. The Persians ran away and never attacked Delphi again, believing the gods were against them.
So, give me a break! I’m here to say the Oracle was plugged into wisdom and prescient knowledge that the priests could not have possibly known from their political network.
You all know how it is. That moment we just know something is true. We don’t know why. We don’t know where the information came from. But we know.
I have a theory about that. It has to do with the song of the universe that connects us all. And as Thaleia, my young Oracle tells the old priest: You can’t kill the Song!
“… an extremely promising and intriguing writer …”
“Night of Pan is head and shoulders above most of the young adult novels now being published. I wouldn't be embarrassed to compare it to Mary Renault's The King Must Die and The Bull from the Sea.”
—Peter S. Beagle, Author of The Last Unicorn, A Fine and Private Place and The Innkeeper’s Song among others.
“Your poetic prose intoxicates me, Thaleia-Teleste!—and it will excite many other readers…poetic prose at its resurrectional best—magically resurrecting Greek mythology with surprises in originality. A deeply terrestrial work, sprouting with relevant meanings for our time—younger readers will be inspired to stay close to Nature’s miracles; excessively technologized older ones will long to return to her beauty and nurturing. Young women will delight in the primal depiction of the feminine.”
—Thanasis Maskaleris: Author of The Terrestrial Gospel of Nikos Kazantzakis: Will the Humans be Saviors of the Earth? Granted "Commander of the Order of the Phoenix" Title of distinguished honor from the Republic of Greece.
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