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This quote is about "The Mists of Manannan", an ancient Celtic idea in a really interesting book about the Druid Mysteries that I am reading now:

From Brendan Cathbad Myers's The Mysteries of Druidry (2006):
"The Mists of Manannan...can be seen as what it feels like for someone standing in a place that is neither one place nor another, neither day nor night, neither sea nor land, neither one world nor the other. It is what it feels like to be stepping into a realm of magic. The dissolution of these boundaries is a step towards the recognition of primordial unity."

The Mists of Manannan are what obscure the magical nature of the world, a cloak around the Celtic gods and the spirits that prevent us from seeing them clearly. "Manannan" is the sea god in Celtic mythology. The sea is symbolic of the Otherworld, a place interpenetrating our own existence where spirits and magical creatures arise from, such as faeries. This is the Sidhe, or the land of Faerie. This is also related to the Underworld where souls are taken when they die, but the souls do not stay there forever, but can reincarnate into other bodies. The main principle of Druid philosophy is the transmigration of the soul (which I'll probably have another Quote of Wisdom about), which means that our world is constantly interacting with the Otherworld by the births and deaths of people and other animals.
So the mists are the barriers between our world and the Otherworld, as well as the means by which we can travel between them, from our world into a realm of magic. The sea, or any body of water, was seen by the Druids to be a way of travelling to the Otherworld. Birds such as swans are symbolic of the Otherworld, and are messengers to guide us there.
Parting the mists is also a symbol for breaking down intellectual barriers that prevent us from seeing the world as a unity. We usually see the world in terms of categories and composed of distinct substances, but there is an underlying spiritual unity to the world, a conclusion that not only spirituality but also modern science is continually pointing to.
Certain threshold places in the world are supposedly especially potent for a connection to the Otherworld and magic, such as places by the waterside, doorways, bridges, and dawn and dusk. Here, we have the mists obscuring our perceptions, but in doing so, we also have the ability to breach the mists to see the magical aspects in the world beyond them. These special places are not well defined--they are neither land nor water, day nor night--and so they help us take a step towards recognizing the unity in the world. In Celtic mysticism, magic arose from the Otherworld, and so by parting the mists, we can see into the magical reality of things.
How does one part the mists? The first step is similar in most spiritual traditions: to adopt a spiritual attitude so as to see the unity in things, not in terms of how useful or practical they are. Our common day-today attitude is focused on getting things done, and not about understanding the inner nature of ourselves and the world. So we must go beyond this in order to see correspondences in the world and how they connect to greater principles, which is what the saying "as above, so below" means. And if we can part the mists, we may do as the Druids did, and walk between two worlds.

I'll put up more quotes from this book in the coming weeks!

For those of us who are not naturally artists (visual arts, I mean), I find it so disappointing when I have a great idea for a painting, since I can't paint it. It sometimes happens right before I go to sleep, when all of a sudden, I see a beautiful image in my mind, in fantastic detail. Something like these (I just got these from Pinterest, I didn't paint them!):

Lady in the forest
Aizian Magician By Stephanie Pui-Mun Law
I could probably explain the images I saw (there were about 10 in sequence that just popped into my head), but I would never be able to paint them. If I really wanted to, I guess I could take painting lessons, but I'm not really into actually painting a picture, so it's not worth it. This got me to thinking about a few things:

1) I need Dumbledore's pensieve. Desperately.

2) Where do these images come from? I can think of a lot of wild fantastical ideas, but they're probably no more than wild fantastical ideas.

3) There are different skill sets that go into any one art which don't always come together naturally in any one person. So for painting, you might have someone who can paint amazing pictures but couldn't come up with a new idea for one, or you could have someone who has awesome ideas that sometimes flash into their mind but they couldn't paint them for the world (I fit into the latter category).

So the artists who are successful have to have a good measure of both skills: to be able to paint, and to have great ideas of what to paint. The same goes for writing too. Ideas for writing are more comprehensive than a single image, but there are people who have great ideas for books but would never be able to write them (either by lack of skill or lack of really trying...I think most of the time it's lack of really trying), and people who write well, but they don't write about anything interesting since they have no good ideas.
So what do you do? I think people should pick the type of art (or other profession) that they actually want to do, and then "fill in their gaps" by trying to learn whatever skill their missing. For me, that's writing, even though I sometimes wish I could spontaneously be a painter for a day. As for filling in the gaps, I could definitely develop my skills with the mechanics of writing, especially with capturing characters, but fortunately for me, it's not as though I'm hopeless like I am with my cartoony drawings. I don't think I have any problems with getting ideas, though really, everyone's skills develop through time, so even in areas where we are "experts", we still have room to grow.
That's what is so great about art--painting, writing, etc. It's not that one day you will "get it" all of a sudden, like you can "get" how to add two numbers together and really can't progress to a higher level of adding two plus two. But there's always something new we can capture in writing, some skill we can improve on, or some better way to integrate our skills into creating a single piece. The same thing is true for painting, but a painter would be better at talking about that area than me.
So in a world with no pensieves or devices to capture your thoughts (yet! I'm optimistic though), we need to work harder to be creative. Maybe that's a good thing, though I would have loved to be able to capture my mental paintings.
aelfin fae
Comments welcome! Does anyone else have amazing random images or ideas that would make a great story/painting?

The excitement of a new book! Well, it's an old book, but it's new for me. I got the book for only 99 cents on Amazon (there was $6 shipping, but $7 for the book is still great). It just came in the mail today and it was a hard call whether I would open it then and there and be late for my appointment or open it later...I did it later. Finally! The last book in Mary Stewart's Arthurian saga!
But no! It's the last one! At least now I own all of them so I can read them whenever I want. I think I'll make this series be like The Picture of Dorian that I mean that I'll read them periodically, so maybe once every year or two.

Now it's another hard call whether I'll start reading it right away or wait until I finish one of the 5 (or 6, now that I started this Druid book from the library...) books I'm reading now. Maybe I'll whiz through City of Bones by the end of the week so I can start this next week.
Happy reading, book lovers!

Check out my interview about writing and my novel Aizai the Forgotten:

See what Muse it Up authors have to say about their expectations with their writing:

You can get it here:

Gifted with the magical ability of song, young Lunora sings to hatch and protect newborn dragons in a hatchery hidden in the 17th century Spanish Greatwood. Yet when a rare dragon egg comes to the hatchery, dark forces contrive to take the egg and so exploit the dragon's powers, and Lunora must help with the most dangerous hatch yet...

Check it my interview about writing and my book Aizai the Forgotten here:

Check out my Pinterest board for hints about the characters and scenes in the sequel I am now writing:

Follow Mary-Jean's board Aizai Sequel on Pinterest.

Can something be in two places at once? Well, it matters what kind of "thing" you're talking about. If you're an electron, or another subatomic particle, then sure, why not? But larger things, such as you, can't hope to do such a thing.
Small particles seem to be able to exist in many places at once, that is, until you observe them. If you try to measure their position, you will come up with a definite value, but before you make an observation, they exist in a superposition of all possible states. This is called the Copenhagen Interpretation. In the picture below, the graph on the left shows the probability of observing a particle in a particular location (in x and y coordinates), and you can see that there is a large spread-out region where the particle is most likely to be found. This is represented by the particle's wavefunction (ψ). The particle isn't "in" any one spot, but all over that area, though it is more likely to be found at the peak.
However, when an observation or measurement is made, the wavefunction "collapses" so that the particle no longer exists in a general spread out region, but a particular spot (the spike on the graph to the right).
So what does this have to do with writing?
Well, the writer, when creating a world and its characters, has to in a sense be in many places at once. You can't just create one character alone in a vat, but you need to consider how they interact with their world, what they're doing, what other characters they know...You need to know everything at the same time, to have a vision to weave dozens of characters into a plot and develop them externally and internally. Things don't happen in a sequence: like the particles of quantum mechanics, you have to capture dozens, even hundreds, of things at one, and somehow construe them into a unified story. The ideas for a story starts out as a nebulous thing, like a particle spread out over a larger area, but from that, when we bring or attention to them as an observer or author, we "collapse" these ideas into a story.
You could have written the story in a different way, just as a particle could have been somewhere else when you went to look at it. But the key is that when you decide on a story, you make a choice. What characters do you include? Whose point of view is it? What path do they take to further the plot? All these questions are intrinsically related, so we have to capture many things at the same time.
Often, it is hard to do this, and there is a fine line between scatter-brained multitasking and capturing many things at once. So sometimes, we have to focus on one thing at a time, like an event or a character's backstory. But I think that the real "juice" of writing comes when we capture many things at once, to unite them to a whole and look down on our story from above. Then things should flow naturally, or at least, that's the idea. It isn't always easy to put ideas into practice, and I find that when I write, moving between the macro to micro picture of what is going on in the story is difficult. Sure, maybe I know what megalomaniac plan the villains have, but to move down to visualize what they're actually doing in the present moment sometimes isn't easy.
This is when you have to "be a particle", to exist in a kind of superposition of many different ideas, and in doing so, be able to unite them into a story that makes a compelling tale on both the small scale and the large scale. You're like the picture on the left, spread out over a region of many possibilities that are the different elements of your story. The next step, to make them into a unified tale, is the "measurement". That spike on the right graph is your story, seemingly a linear tale, but arising from a state of many different elements.

I have to add that there is another interpretation other than the Copenhagen one that I find more compelling (though in physics, most people accept the Copenhagen approach). This is the Many Worlds Interpretation, pictured below. In this interpretation, a particle exists in every possible location, but each of these locations exists in a parallel universe. We only observe one thing happening because we are not in contact with these parallel universes. So in this scenario, the observer has no magical ability to make wavefunctions collapse, but rather, when they make a measurement, they only measure the particle's position that exists in their universe.

In this case, when it comes to writing, we can say that we have to access many parallel worlds to write, each with different plot threads, with different characters, and from them, we must create a unified narrative that will be perceived as the single measured position in our world (the arrow in the diagram), even though it was born from many elements across many universes.

So, whether there is one world or many, writers have to learn the art of being in more than one place at the same time. Sounds like magic, but our thoughts are quantums of energy, and so they too exist in the strange world ruled by quantum mechanics.

Any ideas? Is this doable, or crazy? Comments welcome!

"A Soul Wanderer never knows. He wanders; he makes his own path through the
heights of the universe."

-Sio Larwick

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Mary-Jean's books

The Printer's Devil
The Crystal Cave
The Picture of Dorian Gray
The Lost Prince
The Fellowship of the Ring
The Hobbit
Rise of the Darklings
The Fire King
Clockwork Angel
Jane Eyre
Wuthering Heights
The Lost World
Around the World in Eighty Days
The Sum of All Men
Brotherhood of the Wolf
The Lair of Bones
Sons of the Oak
The Wyrmling Horde

Mary-Jean Harris's favorite books »
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