I’d first like to say that I’m in no way an expert on the Hindu Religion or myths. I have done a lot of research but it’s a complicated and vast religion with numerous stories. Which is part of what makes it so fascinating. The myths are magical tales of beings with supernatural powers and often strange appearances. The Naga are one of those wondrous races. I’ve researched them in the past but did a little refresher recently for my latest Spellsinger book, Out of Tune. I never adhere strictly to the myths, preferring to create my own version branching from them, but I do like to base my versions in the original stories. So, just to differentiate between the source and my imagination, I thought I’d share a brief summary of my research.
The word “naga” is taken from the Sanskrit word for cobra and they are referred to in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. Naga are a semi-divine—I assume that means they’re demigods—race of reptilian shapeshifter who are half cobra and half human. That’s all pretty straightforward but things get a little murky where their shapeshifting is concerned. Most of what I read said that Nagas can take either a human or a snake form. To me, that says they can be either completely human in appearance or completely cobra. However, they have been depicted in three other ways. The first is a divided form that’s half of each; usually the top half is human and the bottom is snake. The second is a human body with several snake hoods—called a canopy—above its head. I’m uncertain whether the canopy is attached or just symbolic since sometimes (in Buddhism) a dragon head is shown instead of the hoods. The third form is of a hooded cobra with multiple heads. I took the shapeshifting even further and created my own version of them—this goes back to early Godhunter books—where I gave them a werecobra form in which they have a cobra hood laid over their human head like, well, a hoodie and sometimes snake eyes, but I want to make clear that I’ve found no reference to that in the myths and I’m not claiming this shape is true to those stories. There may be such a reference—I haven’t scoured every myth and I don’t put anything past them—but I have yet to come across it.
On to their powers. Beyond the shapeshifting, Naga are known to be stronger than humans (but of course), very attractive, and have a control over water that extends to rain. I haven’t found mention of Nagas controlling or creating storms, but I believe I’m going to explore that possibility when I—spoiler alert—bring them into my Spectra Series. Likely due to their magic, they’re associated with rivers, lakes, seas, and wells. They’re also said to be the guardians of treasure. I’m not sure if there’s a dragon connection to the treasure thing but it seems plausible to me (I refer you back to the Buddhist representation of a Naga with a dragon head above it). They live in an underground city called Pata-loka or Naga-loka full of beautiful palaces adorned with jewels (probably the treasure they’re guarding). There are many supposed entrances to this city and they’re all through some form of water; either a river, lake, or well. The God Brahma sent the Naga to live underground because their race was growing too large. He also told them they could only bite evil people or those soon to die. I guess asking them not to bite people at all was too much to expect. Which brings us to their next talent.
Naga are poisonous just like cobras. Their bite can kill. It’s probably why they made such good guardians and protectors. A Naga was said to have protected the Buddha. Female Nagas are called Nagini, Nagi, or Nagin. I went with Nagini in my books just because it sounds prettiest to me. The Nagini were said to be strikingly beautiful women who sometimes mated with human men. Dynasties in India and Indochina have claimed to have a nagini at their origin.
I could go on, but I think that sums up Nagas nicely and paints a clearer picture of what I kept true to and what I embellished for the books. Once again, thank you for pondering the paranormal with me.
When I first started to write paranormal novels, I came across the issue of clothing and shapeshifters. Mainly; what happens to it when they shift. A few authors have gone the easy route and have the clothes “magically” disappear and reappear during shifts. I’ve never been comfortable with that. In my opinion, magic can be used to explain away a lot of things in a paranormal story but it should always make sense; at least a little. So, I thought about it sensibly and this is what I came up with:
First, I considered shapeshifting itself. That alone is highly magical but there is a piece of realism to it. Shapeshifting does occur in Nature. Exhibit A; the butterfly. Butterflies are the most well known shapeshifter that we all take for granted. We admit there is something marvelous about it changing from a crawling caterpillar into a flying butterfly but we don’t think much about the change. I won’t go into all the science of it. Instead, let’s make it simple. The caterpillar makes a containment unit for itself then turns into soup. It completely destroys its body and rebuilds into something new.
Okay, we’ve got the concept of shapeshifting now; if you want to become something entirely new, you have to tear apart the old. I hardly wanted my shapeshifters turning to goo and reforming themselves from a puddle; especially not in a romance novel. Goo is not sexy. So, I went with a magical, rapid cellular destruction. The body is broken down and reforms so quickly that the eye can’t follow the process or—most importantly—see the goo. Shapeshifting premise down.
Now, onto the clothing. If we take into consideration the previous conclusion, I believe we can conclude that there is no place for clothing in this process. A caterpillar certainly wouldn’t want a bit of cloth in his soup. That might result in anything from mutation to death. Therefore, the only way I felt that I could reasonably describe a shapeshifter transforming would be to leave the clothing out of it. The next conclusion is that if you leave the clothing out of the transformation, the new shape would then affect it. If that new shape is bigger than the last, you have torn clothing. So, my shifters either disrobe or tear a lot of clothing in my books. Either way, I think it’s sexier and far more believable than clothing that transforms with the shifter.
Thank you for taking the time to read my paranormal pondering.
I did some research into the Yakuza for one of the books in the Godhunter Series. This is not by any means a complete research paper on the Yakuza, merely a glimpse into what I discovered and what inspired me to write about their Gods.
There are two main branches of the Yakuza:
The Tekiya: itinerant vendors and hawkers originally, like Japanese Gypsies. They do everything from fortune telling to committing crimes. No more than 20% actually engage in peddling anymore. In addition to Amaterasu and the Emperor, they worship the god, Shinnō.
The Bakuto: very simply, they’re gamblers. In addition to Amaterasu and the Emperor, they worship the god, Hachiman.
Both branches worship Amaterasu and the present Emperor of Japan. Honestly, I don’t know what the worship of a living man is all about, perhaps it’s more of a respectful thing than worship like that of a deity.
Classic Yakuza activities include pachinko (a game), prostitution, protection, extortion, illegal gambling, occasionally drugs, real estate, and construction.
Tattoos were once used to brand criminals, but they became the mark of laborers in Japan and then solely Yakuza. Members tattoo themselves to:
Show that they have passed an initiation.
Prove that they have endured pain.
Commit an irreversible act.
Bear a mark of their order with pride.
Yakuza men wear kimono only on special occasions. These days, they prefer flashy suits, bright ties, sunglasses, rings, and close-cropped hair.
Some Yakuza terms:
Kobun: Gang members
Katagi: Straight Society
Sokaiya: Protection racket: they harass stockholder meetings.
Mikajime: Protection fees
Gobu-gobu: Brother; a title given to a man of equal rank. The Yakuza uses familial ranks so the wife of a boss would be called an elder sister and a lower ranking man would be called a younger brother.
Dormanbai: “Muddy Pen” The process of selling bad products.
A Yakuza ritual~
Sakazuki: The Cup Exchange
Sakazuki is the most important Yakuza ritual. It’s conducted in a secret location and time that are only revealed at the last moment. At one end of the hall it’s held in there will be an altar, above which will hang three scrolls representing three gods: Amaterasu on the right, Shinnō in the middle, and the Emperor on the left.
The ritual is conducted to implore purification from the Gods then a visit is paid to a local hot spring, and, finally, a boisterous and licentious feast is held. It was during this ritual that the Yakuza was attacked by werewolves in the Godhunter Series.
Amaterasu is the Goddess of the Sun and is one of the few female sun goddesses there are. Her name means: Shining in Heaven. She is the ruler of the Sun and Heavens along with her brother, Tsukuyomi, the Moon God. She is also the ruler of Takama no Hara, the High Celestial Plain, the domain of Kami (spirits). Amaterasu is the daughter of Izanami and Izanagi, sister of Susanoo (the Storm God), and mother of Ama-no-Oshiho-mimi. She is associated with roosters, the Sun, and ravens (her messengers).
Shinnō was actually a Chinese god-emperor who was credited with discovering medicine. He’s a God of Agriculture, Music, Medicinal Herbs, and the Market. It’s not clear how the Japanese Tekiya Yakuza came to worship him but since they’re traveling merchants, they probably picked him up in China and brought him back to Japan like a divine memento.
Hachiman is the God of Archery and War and is the patron god of warriors. He was worshiped by the Samurai and is considered to be a protector of Japan. Obviously, the Yakuza craved such a strong god for their own, but I find it interesting that a crime syndicate has such an honorable god as their patron.
There you have it, the meager collection of information I have on the Yakuza. Don’t tell them I told you.
The book in which the Yakuza Gods first appear:
While researching my latest Godhunter book, I decided to delve into the world of the Jinn (Also spelled as Djinn or Jinni) Who hasn’t been fascinated with the idea that a ghostly being could pop out of a bottle and grant them wishes? I want one! Me, please! But the Jinn aren’t just stories to Muslims; they believe in them as firmly as devout Christians believe in Angels. In fact, they believe that the Jinn were created by God the day after he made the Angels. God formed the Jinn from a “mix of fire” or “smokeless fire.” In my books, I took a bit of artistic liberty and made that smokeless fire into dragon fire. But I digress. There has been all sorts of speculation on what a smokeless fire is—many think it’s actually a type of energy that gives the Jinn their long lifespans—but nothing more about it seems to be mentioned in the Qur’an. Oh, and yes, the Jinn are mentioned numerous times in that holy book. In fact, it’s written that Muhammad (the last prophet of Allah) was sent to the Jinn as well as the humans to preach to them about Allah. Islamic tradition also says that King Solomon, the same one of Bible fame, was given the ability to speak with animals and Jinn.
Okay, we’ve established that there is serious belief in these beings. I read that “One can’t be a Muslim without faith in the Jinn’s existence.” So, please, do not make light of them to any Muslim friends you may have. These are not blue spirits with mustaches and the voice of Robin Williams.
The Jinn are reputedly fearsome beings who were on Earth long before humans. Evidently, they pissed off Allah by growing arrogant and corrupt so he sent a bunch of angels down to teach them a lesson. Jinn-butts smacked and lessons learned, Allah felt satisfied that justice had been dealt but decided he could do better as far as races were concerned. Boom! Humans were made.
Allah liked his new creation and demanded that the Angels and Jinn all bow down to us little humans. Most did, except for this guy called Iblis (I’ve also seen him referred to as Shaytan… hmmm, what does that name remind you of?) who said “Hell no, I’m made of smokeless fire and these things are made of clay. Obviously, I’m superior” (not a direct quote). Allah told him “Hell, yes, and that just happens to be where you’re going, buddy” (again, not a direct quote) and sent Iblis to Hell. That’s right; he’s the Muslim Devil. There’s a bit of contention over whether Iblis was a jinn or an angel, but I agree with one writer who said that since Angels could not disobey Allah, it makes sense that the one who did disobey would have to be a jinn.
Back to who they are. The Jinn are believed to live on another plane of existence (that worked really well into my story as I already had the perfect plane of existence to put them in) but enjoy interacting with humans in our realm. They are neutral entities, just like humans, and are neither good nor bad but able to be either. There are stories of Jinn helping humans and being a muse to poets and then other tales of them being nasty buttheads.
Jinn are said to be spirits who can take the shape of animals or people, some are even said to be able to take any form. They like human crafts and several became masters in human arts, and they also have power over the elements. Before Islam was established, the Jinn were supposedly worshiped by humans because of all of their mystical powers. Jinn can also possess people. The Arabic word majnun, used as a word for insanity, actually means “to be possessed by a jinni.” Because of this possession possibility, the Arabs have numerous ways to protect themselves from Jinn. Also of note is that when in their physical forms, the Jinn can be hurt. That’s the only time they can be hurt, actually. Despite this, they often take physical shape. One reason is to have sex, which Jinn engage in not only with each other, but also with humans. And yes, there can be offspring from such pairings.
Now, here’s the part that really surprised me; there are subclasses of Jinn. Lots of them. I won’t go too crazy with the descriptions, but I do want to give you a brief overview of each type.
The Jinn Tribes
Ifrits are Jinn who can be found in ancient ruins. They are thought to be the protectors of the Pyramids of Egypt. They have societies like humans with social ranks within their tribes or clans. They have been known to marry humans and have children with them and have the power to grant wishes. Despite that, they’re also known to be mean motherpluckers and it’s probably best if you stay away from them.
The Marid are the most powerful Jinn and are the basis for modern genie stories. The word marid means “giants.” I’ll let you draw your own conclusions on that. They can grant wishes but those wishes come at a high cost. Thy’re likely the origin of that whole “3 wishes” thing since they can also be forced to grant those wishes if you trap them with magic or perform a ritual in their honor.
This one lifted my brows. I had no idea that Ghouls were Jinn. These Ghouls are shapeshifters with a craving for human flesh. They feed on corpses usually but wouldn’t turn down a fresh meal. Their women are especially scary because they can appear normal and even beautiful. They’ll trick men into marrying them and then eat their husbands. That seems like a lot of effort just for dinner, but I’m sure they have their reasons.
These are Jinn who appear as dogs or other animals. They’re found mostly in Arabia, Persia, and India. Evidently there were soldiers who disappeared during World War II who were led off into the desert by dogs. Those dogs are thought to be Hinn.
These are shapeshifting Jinn who live in the desert. They’re more open-minded than other Jinn and are friendly toward humans. They like to appear as whirlwinds or white camels (interesting choices). They are particularly useful since they are the enemy of the Ghouls, but they are also mischievous so I wouldn’t count on their help even in the midst of a ghoul attack. They have been know to take sides in human wars and either help or hurt soldiers depending on their opinion of them.
The Sila are shapeshifters who like to meddle in the affairs of humans, usually in a helpful way. They’re rarely seen.
These Jinn are similar to vampires. They live in the desert and drink blood from humans via foot licking. That’s right; they lick people’s feet until they bleed then drink the blood. Evidently, this is done while the person sleeps and doesn’t wake them. (This must be why I can’t sleep with my feet exposed; I must have sensed that there were foot-licking monsters out there. I just thought they lived under my bed, not in the desert.) I also read that the Palis aren’t too bright, and I instantly thought to myself; well, that’s obvious. Anyone with intelligence would find a better way to drink blood. How many licks does it take to get to the center of a human foot?
Supposedly, we’re all born with one of these as a companion. They are the little devils on our shoulders telling us to do bad things. With a lot of work, you can train them. Muhammad trained his so that he was never tempted by evil again. Training your qareen has other benefits as well. You can learn anything about anyone since everyone has a qareen and they can talk to each other. You will know how to cure illness, be able to find lost things, and make others obey you—again through their qareen. Oh, and you’ll know before visitors arrive; that’s obviously the most awesome benefit. Maybe Muhammad wrote a book on how to train your jinn. That would be helpful and it would also be a great name for a movie.
Okay, these are basically Muslim Demons. They are the followers of Iblis and love to do naughty things to humans. They can make you sick, destroy your life, and even kill you. They, like other Jinn, can possess humans, but they’re always mean about it. They’re malevolent asshats.
This is another type of vampire jinn. The Vetala are said to be the original vampires and are highly intelligent, as opposed to the foot-lickers. They can possess corpses and keep them from rotting. What purpose could they possibly have for that? Well, they use these fresh corpses as suits that they possess to walk among humans undetected. They’re also psychics who read thoughts and can tell the future.
Phew. When I first started researching, I honestly didn’t think there would be this much information on Jinn but in addition to the above, I found numerous stories, some sweet and horrifying, about Jinn interacting with humans. I hope this has opened your eyes about these fascinating beings—who may or may not be myths—and maybe even entertained you a bit. Now, stop reading this and go rub a lamp.
Meet the Jinn in this book:
The book in which Dvarka comes to life:
The Old Norse religion is a fascinating one full of strong, beautiful, and mischievous gods who love to come down to Earth and hang with the humans. Most people associate Valhalla with the religion, but there are so many other interesting Norse myths about the afterlife, the Gods, and the end of the world. Today, I’d like to ponder the Norse version of the Apocalypse, although I’m not sure “Apocalypse” is the best comparison. Where the Apocalypse is God ending the world, Ragnarok is the end of everything, including the Gods. In fact, the Gods pretty much destroy each other and take us down with them. The word Ragnarok means “Fate of the Gods” but has also been referred to as the Twilight of the Gods; a term I prefer simply for its poetic flow.
The Viking myth about the end of the world has many steps, clues to let the Norse people know what was coming (not that they could do anything about it). I took some liberties with these steps in my Godhunter Series but this is the correct order of the events of Ragnarok; the complete destruction of the entire cosmos, including the Gods.
Fimbulvetr arrives; the great Winter that will last as long as three normal winters. Humans will become desperate to survive and basically turn into a bunch of savages who would slaughter each other over a stale saltine cracker.
The Roosters Crow: there are three roosters whose crowing foretells the coming of Ragnarok but none of them are on Earth. Evidently, the horrible winter is enough to warn humans and they don’t need to hear a stupid rooster crow to know the god crap has just hit the fan. The three Roosters are: Fjalar—who crows in Jotunheim (land of the Giants), Gullinkambi—who crows in Asgard (home of the Aesir Gods), and the third rooster doesn’t have a name, he’s only known as a soot-red rooster who crows in Hel (that’s one L, not two; a land for the dead that’s cold instead of hot). At the same time, Garmr, the Hound of Hel, howls and breaks free.
The wolves, named Skoll and Hati, who have hunted the Sun and the Moon across the sky since there was a Sun and a Moon, will finally catch them and eat ’em up. Much to the surprise of all of us who called them silly puppies for chasing things you obviously can’t catch. Will they, get the last laugh. Nom, nom, nom. They eat the stars too until there’s nothing left but black night.
The world tree, Yggdrasil, with all of the Nine Worlds held within it, will quake and every tree in every world will fall and the mountains will crumble to the ground. Basically, it’ll make a big mess that no one can clean up.
Fenrir, the Great Wolf, shall be set loose and run amok, amok, amok! He’s probably pissed off that he missed the chance to catch the Sun and Moon so he’s gotta find something else to eat.
Jormungand, the enormous world serpent, will rise from the depths, causing tidal waves as he slip-slides onto land.
The snake’s arrival will loose the ship Naglfar—that disgusting ship made of the fingernails and toe nails of dead people (not kidding)—from its moorings to sail over the flooded earth, manned by Giants (the Jotnar led by Sutr) and captained by Loki (who broke free of his own chains to be there). They are headed to a field called Vigridr to do battle. As a side note here; Snorri Sturluson, who wrote the prose Edda, mentions how fingernails and toenails were cut from the dead as part of funeral rites so they couldn’t be used in building the Naglfar. No nails, no ship.
Fenrir will run across the Earth, fire shooting from his eyes and nose, with his jaw open wide to devour everything in his path. Think of a demonic bulldozer the size of the Titanic.
Jormungand will spit venom all over the place like a drooling pit bull and poison the worlds; land, water, and sky. He’s a grumpy gus when he first wakes up and hasn’t had his coffee.
The sky splits apart and out of the crack comes a bunch of Fire-Giants from Muspelheim. Surt, their King who has a fiery sword, leads them. They march across the Bifrost bridge—the rainbow bridge you see in movies—to Asgard, home of the Gods, and as they march, the bridge breaks behind them. No more rainbow connection.
Heimdall blows his horn, Gjallarhorn, to announce the arrival of Ragnarok.
Odin consults the head of Mimir, because the dead, giant head is supposedly even smarter than the Allfather. Odin did give his eye to Mimir for wisdom so I suppose this makes sense.
The Gods convene and decide to go to battle, even though that’s dumb considering that they know what’s coming. I guess going to war is better than doing nothing, especially when you love fighting as much as they do. The Gods meet the Giants (all sorts of Jotun) on a battlefield called Vigrid—it creatively means “Plain where battle surges.”
Odin fights Fenrir with his Einherjar—his chosen human warriors who have been training at Valhalla for this precise battle. Despite their training, Fenrir gobbles them all up, just like the Wolf with Little Red Riding Hood’s grandma. Even Odin gets swallowed. So much for the smart head.
Odin’s son, Vidar, attacks Fenrir to avenge his father. He’s wearing a shoe crafted from the scraps of leather that all human shoemakers have ever discarded. So, basically, a really big shoe. The shoe was made specifically to battle Fenrir, and Vidar uses it to hold open Fenrir’s mouth so he can stab Fenrir through the throat and kill him.
Another big bad wolf named Garm—you may remember him from his howling in Hel—fights the god, Tyr, and they kill each other. So do Heimdall and Loki, Freyr and Surt, and Thor and Jormungand. The most epic of those single-combats with dual deaths is the one between Thor and Jormungand. Thor manages to hammer the big snake to death, but he’s covered in so much snake venom that he only makes it nine steps before he falls dead too.
The remnants of the world—whatever Fenrir didn’t gobble up—sinks into the sea and nothing is left but the void. Creation is undone; the end.
Yeah, rather depressing but that’s about par for the course with end of the world scenarios, and the Vikings had to have one badass enough to match their badassness.
Experience Ragnarok in:
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