When I was writing my folk horror novel The Jack in the Green, I knew I wanted to blend ancient and modern to create a new horror story. As I so often do, I looked to the Celtic calendar for some inspiration.
30th April/1st May:
Beltane, or Fire Festival, which has its origins in pagan and druidic practice. The name Beltane is derived from Belenus (a Celtic sun deity) and when translated means ‘the fires of Bel’. Fire Festival is celebrated on May Eve and traditionally marked the bringing out of livestock into the spring. Animals would be herded between the fires to ward off illness, and rowan would be hung above the hearth in the home to purify the live-giving fire. Beltane is a fertility festival, and that aspect was key to my decision to work some of its lusty magic into the story of The Jack in the Green. As you’ll find when you read it, fertility is a strong theme in the book. After the Beltane fires have died down, we celebrate May Day (1st May), which sees the tradition of ‘The Jack in the Green’ played out to this day in places such as Whitstable and Hastings. The anarchic, often rather drunk, Jack is dressed from head to toe in greenery and processes through the town as an anarchic symbol of mischief and mayhem. The origins of this fiendish figure of fun are said to harken back to Roman times, when a tree would be cut down and decorated in veneration of the Goddess Flora. This tradition is said to have given us the maypole, around which promiscuous revellers would dance and cavort. Jack would be proud of them, no doubt.
Samhain (31st October) is another festival of renewal in addition to being the name of the publisher of The Jack in the Green! (Pronounced Sow-when). As the wheel of the year turns into winter, Samhain marks Celtic New Year. We celebrate it nowadays as Halloween, and aspects of ancient tradition can be seen in our ‘guising’ (wearing masks and costumes) and the act of remembering our dead ancestors, perhaps most strikingly of all in the Dia de los Muertos celebrations. Celtic belief made Samhain a time to reflect on past mistakes and to take stock, and this is really what Tom’s journey in The Jack in the Green is all about as he moves through the darkness into enlightenment.
It is one of the great pleasures of being a writer to take folklore that fires the imagination and to blend it all together into something new.
I hope you enjoy reading The Jack in the Green and ‘May’ I wish you all a fantastically fiery Beltane!
Now, where did I put that Jack in the Green costume…?
The Jack in the Green is on sale at only $0.99 thru 6th May from:
Barnes & Noble Nook
About the book:
A nightmare made real.
On Christmas Eve, six year-old Tom McRae witnessed an unspeakable atrocity that left him orphaned, his childhood in tatters. Now in his mid-thirties, Tom still has terrifying nightmares of that night. When Tom is sent to the remote Scottish village of Douglass to negotiate a land grab for his employer it seems like a golden opportunity for him to start over. But Tom can’t help feeling he’s been to Douglass before, and the terrible dreams from his childhood have begun to spill over into his waking life. As murderous events unfold and Tom’s feverish nightmares escalate, he will discover the hideous truth behind the villagers’ strange pagan ritual of The Jack in the Green.
“I have enjoyed all of Frazer Lee’s work, but The Jack in the Green is by far my favorite! Lee strikes the perfect balance between psychological horror…and vicious violence and gore.” (5 out of 5 stars, The Horror Bookshelf)