Guest Blogger: L. J. Smith
I don’t remember when I first fell in love with Greek mythology—I was too little to read. I had a very tall book, with beautiful pictures of lovely girls being abducted by dark men in black chariots, and I made my dad read me the stories.
This was D’aulaire’s Book of Greek Myths, which is still available, and still an excellent introduction to mythology. To me, mythology was a way to escape into a faraway fantasyland, where magic was everywhere, where every tree held a dryad, and every stream a laughing naiad. In my mind, I rode on centaurs and swam with the dolphins, companions of the sea god Neptune.
But most of all I loved the young goddesses. I loved the story of Persephone, the innocent young girl, daughter of the Queen of the Harvest, who was gathering flowers one day when a black hole opened in the earth before her. It was Hades, the Lord of the Underworld, come to take her to his dark kingdom by force. After that, she was forced to be his Queen for the six months out of the year, while the earth was barren—a primitive explanation of winter—and she was allowed to return to her mother in the spring and summer, so that all the flowers could bloom and the crops grow. It seemed to me that she’d gotten a pretty lousy deal, all because she’d eaten six pomegranate seeds while in the kingdom of Hades.
The Secret Circle is one of my favorite works because I put all kinds of Greek and Celtic mythology in it. The heroine is Cassie, who starts out as a shy girl and ends up following her destiny to become leader of a coven of witches. I envision her as the muse of poetry, clad in a dress made of yards of moonlight, dazzling everyone she sees.
Cassie’s most dangerous enemy is Faye, who represents Juno, the jealous and vengeful Queen of the gods. Suzan, another dark witch, represents the beautiful but eternally vain and petty Aphrodite, goddess of love. Deborah, the last of the dark witches, represents the eternal huntress Athena—except that she finds freedom riding on a motorcycle!
To the original leader of the witch—group, I gave the name Diana. She, golden haired, as beautiful as a flower, represented all the European concepts of the Triple Goddess, the maiden, mother, and crone. Right show she is a serene and loving maiden-until Faye’s jealousy causes her to doubt her dearest friends.
The other thing I like about The Secret Circle—and that very, very few people have realized—is that it is a retelling of the Camelot legend, with the sexes reversed.
In Camelot, King Arthur is absolute ruler and he marries
Queen Guinevere, who loves him, and is loyal to him, but also loves
Sir Lancelot, the foreigner, who sweeps her off her feet.
In Secret Circle, Witch Princess Diana is absolute ruler and engaged to
Adam, who adores her and is utterly faithful until he meets
Cassie, the outsider, who makes him forget all his promises.
Worse, just as Sir Lancelot felt love and fealty for his King, Cassie feels love and loyalty toward her adopted sister Diana. It is literally anguish for her to give Adam up, but she swears an oath that she will never let Diana know of her love for Adam, by thought, word, or deed.
But meanwhile the wicked (Morgan le?) Faye is spying on Cassie and Adam, and catches them in their last embrace, while they are promising never to see each other alone again.
For a long time Faye uses her power over Cassie to try to bring her over to the dark side of witchcraft, but Cassie resists until the end, until she can find the courage to clear up matters with Diana, and take her own rightful place at the head of the Circle.
Myths, I believe are just ways to tell about archetypical human situations, that is, situations that strike a chord in all of us, whether we’ve actually experienced it or not.
They’re stories that live deep in our subconscious. That’s what I enjoy in writing about them. If done correctly, they can touch readers’ deepest inner hearts.
A big thanks to L. J. Smith for writing this guest blog for us. My inner teenage fangirl let out a big “I didn’t know that!” squeal when I read that The Secret Circle a retelling of Camelot.
I’ve mentioned a couple of times that I love The Secret Circle books, and I am so happy that this series and The Vampire Diaries have been reissued. If you’ve never read them, I hope this convinces you to give one (or both! and maybe the Night World reissues, which I have to admit I’ve never read, too) a try. Romance, supernatural elements, friendship, and high stakes (pun intended), all in one package.
Visit L. J. Smith’s website and blog for more information about her previously published books and for hints about what she’s working on now. (Damon! trilogy! Need I say more to anyone familiar with The Vampire Diaries?)