So what's THE WREN HUNT about?
In the world of The Wren Hunt, secret communities of draoithe live in modern day Ireland. Descended from the ancient druids, the sorcerers, advisers and priests of early society, they are made up of two factions, the augurs and the judges.
But there is discord between the two sides, and hostility is on the rise. The augurs, descended from the diviners and seers, are able to understand, read and even divine through patterns. But their magic has weakened and their existence is under threat. The judges are the lawmakers and advisers, but the details of their magic and rituals have become lost to augurs. At the heart of the tension is the ownership of sacred sites like dolmens or ring forts, or mounds or sacred oaks. These are the nemeta, which fuel rituals and magic, and draoithe are weakened without them.
Augurs know they have to take decisive action, so they hatch a plan to form the Daragishka Knot. Forming this three-cornered Knot is an act of magic which will help their cause. But to do this, Wren has to go undercover to Harkness House, enemy headquarters to retrieve a map. Wren is from a tight-knit grove led by her grandfather's partner, Maeve. Maeve and her daughters live next door to Wren and her grandfather Smith, and they're a close, if unconventional, family.
Wren begins an internship at the Harkness Foundation, an arts and heritage charity run by the influential judge, Cassa Harkness. Unfortunately for Wren, she has to work with the judge boys from her home village of Kilshamble, who on Boxing Day chase her in a sinister game. But on Cassa's personal guard is Tarc, who isn't like the other boys, and Wren finds herself drawn to him. Moving deeper into Cassa's world, deeper into her mission, Wren begins to question things, like why is Cassa is so obsessed with 19th century artist Arabella De Courcy? And why has someone has sent her a brídeog, a doll made of cloth and leaf? Wren finds herself weighing up her deceptions and her loyalties, and asking herself what she is prepared to sacrifice in order to save those she loves.
How do I SAY it? What does it even MEAN?
Ard-draoi (said: ard dree)
Arch druid. The leader of a grove of augurs. Groves don’t have an overarching leader and any issues are handled by the Gathering of Groves.
Bláithín (said: Blah-een)
Translates as “little flower”.
Brídeog (said: breej-og)
Doll traditionally made on Brigid’s Day at the beginning of February.
From dearg (red) and uisce (water). Augurs contend that placing the three Daraghishka stones together to form this knot will help them in their struggle against judges.
Draoi/ Draoithe pl. (said dree / DREE-huh)
Gairdín (said: gore-deen)
Garden. Used as the collective noun for judges.
Ogham (said: ohme or ogam).
Early Irish alphabet made up of strokes across a line.
Ré órga (said: ray oarga)
Golden age. The judges recognise two ré órgas in their history which brought them military prowess and wealth, and anticipate a third.
Tuatha Na Coille/ Tuanacul (said: Tua na cwyll)
Kilshamble folklore warns of the people of the forest who seduce their victims and extract their vitality.
I've used a bit of Irish in The Wren Hunt. I live in a gaeltacht, an Irish language area, and the language is spoken daily in my home and at my children's school. I don't speak much Irish myself, though I have taken some classes, and since it's very different to English, here's a little help -
WHY the wren hunt? What IS it?
Even before moving to Ireland, I was fascinated by the old tradition of the wren hunt, where wrenboys in masks and costumes would chase a wren on Boxing Day, or St Stephens Day as it's called in Ireland. The wren hunt is still practised in some parts of the country, though the wren has long been replaced by a plastic bird on a stick. These days, wrenboys play music and collect money for a cause. It's colourful and musical, a happy celebration. I'd been tinkering with a story about a girl called Wren, named for the druid bird, and it occurred to me: what if the wrenboys aren't chasing a bird? What if they're chasing a girl? What if this bright chase is something darker? And then I began to piece together the story, why would the boys pursue her? Why do they hate her? And this is one of the ways in which The Wren Hunt began.
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