Thursday, June 13, 2013

Deities 101: The Mythology of the Pipe Woman Chronicles

We have a visitor today! The amazing Lynne Cantwell has recently released “Annealed,” the latest book in her Pipe Woman Chronicles series (Never heard of it? Check it out on Goodreads!) Her literary playground is the world of gods and goddesses, and she’s stopped by to offer us a Deities 101-style look at the power players in her world.

The Mythology of the Pipe Woman Chronicles
by Lynne Cantwell

When I began writing the Pipe Woman Chronicles, I made a conscious decision to make it a different kind of urban fantasy.  Instead of incorporating vampires, zombies, and other things that go bump in the night, I decided to mine various pre-Christian pantheons for the otherworldly beings who populate my novels.  Here's a quick primer.  If you’re interested in seeing what they look like, I’ve created a Pinterest board.  Feel free to stop by!

Kicking things off is White Buffalo Calf Pipe Woman, the Lakota Sioux goddess who gifts Naomi with her extra-special powers of persuasion.  The Lakota believe White Buffalo Calf Pipe Woman brought them the sacred pipe they smoke when making decisions for the tribe.  She also taught them their seven sacred ceremonies – among them, the Sun Dance and the hunka, or making-of-a-brother, ceremony that both occur in Annealed.

Many Plains Indian tribes – including the Lakota and the Ute – include Coyote in their belief systems.  Coyote is a Trickster who can change shape at will.  He is always cooking up some scheme to enrich himself at someone else's expense.  The Ute have a number of stories about Coyote plotting to have sex with one woman or another.

Another Ute legend is that of Blood Clot Boy. (I couldn’t find a picture of him for the Pinterest board, sorry – although that may be just as well.)  He transformed initially from a clot of buffalo blood into a human-like boy, and a childless couple adopted him.  His chief activity was providing his family, and later his tribe, with plenty of buffalo – an important function for a nation whose subsistence largely depended on them.

Three Aztec (or, more properly, Mexica) gods figure in the Pipe Woman Chronicles: Quetzalcoatl, Tezcatlipoca, and Coatlicue.  Quetzalcoatl and Tezcatlipoca seem to be brother gods who swap control of the world at the dawn of each new age, or sun.  We are currently in the Fifth Sun, and the god in charge is Quetzalcoatl, the Feathered Serpent who some New Agers believed would return to Earth at the end of the Long Count that occurred last winter.  Tezcatlipoca, the Smoking Mirror, is another Trickster – a shapeshifter who commonly takes the form of a jaguar.  Early Christian chroniclers would often try to cast one local god in the “good guy” role and another in the “bad guy” role, and Tezcatlipoca drew the short straw for the Mexica.  But the evidence suggests that he was respected rather than feared, and that he would even help his followers on occasion.

Coatlicue was probably imported by the Mexica from an older tradition.  She is considered to be the Mother of some members of the Mexica pantheon (although not the mother of either Quetzalcoatl or Tezcatlipoca, despite the conflation of their separate myths).  Her youngest son, Huitzilopochtli, led the Mexica from their fabled paradise of Aztl├ín to their final home in what is now Mexico City.  Legend has it that she is still waiting for Huitzilopochtli to come back home to her.

From sunny Mexico, we move to cold Northern Europe and the Norse pantheon.  I think almost everybody is familiar with these gods:  Odin, the one-eyed AllFather; Frigga, his wife; Thor, the hammer-wielding god of thunder; and Loki, who is yet another Trickster.

And from the Celtic pantheon, I’ve brought in Brighid.  Catholics know her as a saint. But before Christianity came to Ireland, Brighid was the goddess of smiths, poets, and healers.  There is a shrine in Kildare where a perpetual flame is tended in her honor in a twenty-day rotation: women keep the flame lit for nineteen days, and Brighid Herself tends it on the twentieth.  Or so the legend goes.

Part of the fun of writing the Pipe Woman Chronicles was getting all of these different gods and goddesses together and playing them off of one another.  I hope my readers will enjoy their interplay, too.

It’s zero hour…
Naomi has just two weeks to find a new home for Joseph's grandfather. The old Ute shaman is fighting for his life against a mysterious injection of toxin he received at the hands of the Norse Trickster god Loki. If Naomi is to defeat Loki once and for all, she must learn what it is he seeks under the old man's wickiup.
She has just one week before she must mediate between the Earth's pagan gods and goddesses and the Christian God. If her efforts fail, all of humankind will suffer the consequences.
And her baby is due any day.
In this, the fifth and final book of the Pipe Woman Chronicles, Naomi is in a race against the clock to balance the demands of her body, her family, and her friends – and she must do it while the whole world is watching.

Lynne Cantwell has been writing fiction since the second grade, when the kid who sat in front of her showed
her a book he had written, and she thought, "I could do that." The result was Susie and the Talking Doll, a picture book, illustrated by the author, about a girl who owned a doll that not only could talk, but could carry on conversations. The book had dialogue but no paragraph breaks. Today, after a twenty-year career in broadcast journalism and a master's degree in fiction writing from Johns Hopkins University (or perhaps despite the master's degree), Lynne is still writing fantasy. In addition, she is a contributing author at Indies Unlimited and writes a monthly post for The Indie Exchange.



  1. Thank you so much Jenniffer! Great post!

  2. Jenniffer, thanks very much for letting me play on your blog today!