I'm pleased to welcome author Elizabeth Loupas to Confessions of an Avid Reader for a guest post. Elizabeth is currently touring the blogosphere with Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours to promote her latest novel, The Flower Reader, which was released this week.
Just What is a Flower Reader, Anyway?
I wanted to call this book The Floromancer, but my long-suffering editor pointed out that most people probably wouldn’t know what a floromancer was. So we settled on the simpler and more descriptive term “flower reader,” which means essentially the same thing—a person who practices floromancy, the art of divining with flowers. (The suffix “-mancy,” derived from the Greek manteia, meaning divination, is used to create many magic-related words.)
Floromancy as a form of folk magic is as old as time. If you’ve ever pulled the petals off a daisy and said, “He loves me, he loves me not,” you’ve practiced floromancy. In the sixteenth century it probably would have existed mostly in the countryside, among herbalists and “white” witches. That said, astrology and alchemy, which were considered actual sciences at the time, also incorporated flower symbolism. Flowers were associated with planetary influences and with the prevailing medical theory of the four humors.
Some of the flower lore I used in the book is based on ancient mythologies, some of it on astrology and alchemy, some of it on the planets, the zodiac, and the four humors. Most of it has some basis in folklore somewhere, although as an organized system, it’s something I created.
How did floromancy find its way into Rinette’s story? She always had a connection to plants and gardens—the original original working title, before it was called The Floromancer (and before it was called The Silver Casket) was The Garden by the Sea. In fact, the name of Rinette’s ancestral castle, Granmuir, is an elision of the ancient Scots Gaelic words garràdh (garden) and muir (sea). So there were always going to be flowers and gardens—and here’s a bit I wrote in my journal on Thursday, May 7, 2009:
As I was drifting off to sleep last night, I thought—Rinette tells the future with flowers. When I looked up “floromancy” this morning, I found it also means a belief that flowers have a sort of emotional response to what goes on around them. Also found some interesting spells to induce dreams, using flowers and flower essences. In French it would apparently be la floromancie. I like it—it’s sensuous and unusual and it ties in with the “garden by the sea” angle.
So is The Flower Reader a fantasy, with “real” magic playing a part in the story? Not at all. The Scotland of the second half of the sixteenth century was obsessed with witches and witchcraft, and it’s legitimately historical to have people believing in elements of witchcraft that we know, from our safe four-hundred-and-fifty-year remove, weren’t real. The Scottish Witchcraft Act of 1563 against “witchcraftis, sorsarie and necromancie” was quite serious, and cost a good number of “witches” their lives. We don’t believe in it—but they did.
On the other hand, Rinette is a Scotswoman down to the bone, and there’s a long history of “the sight” in her family. So perhaps there is the tiniest drop of true divination mixed in with her herbalism and folklore. What are your thoughts about magic in historical fiction, when it’s presented as part of what the characters actually believed?
One of her passions is the art and poetry of the Pre-Raphaelites. This led her to the Rossettis and the Brownings, and the project nearest and dearest to her heart--her novel THE SECOND DUCHESS, based on Robert Browning's poem "My Last Duchess."
She hates housework, cold weather, and wearing shoes. She loves animals, gardens, and popcorn. Not surprisingly she lives in a state of happy barefoot chaos with her delightful and faintly bemused husband (the Broadcasting Legend), her herb garden, her popcorn popper, and two beagles.t in the story? Not at all. The Scotland of the second half of the sixteenth century was obsessed with witches and witchcraft, and it’s legitimately historical to have people believing in elements of witchcraft that we know, from our safe four-hundred-and-fifty-year remove, weren’t real. The Scottish Witchcraft Act of 1563 against “witchcraftis, sorsarie and necromancie” was quite serious, and cost a good number of “witches” their lives. We don’t believe in it—but they did.
Tour website: http://hfvirtualbooktours.blogspot.com/2012/03/elizabeth-loupas-on-tour-for-flower.html
Follow the tour on Twitter: #FlowerReaderVirtualTour
Elizabeth Loupas' website: http://elizabethloupas.com