Guest Post by author Leonide Martin
Authors of Visionary Fiction encounter a special challenge when their stories take place in historical settings. Each historic period shapes its cultures through a combination of forces, from evolution to technology and climate. Within cultures, the unique chronicle of events, resources, worldview, and spirituality become defining forces. When cultures interact, these forces are even more complex. Those of us who engage with historical fiction are usually driven by a passion for the culture and time period, and we want to keep our stories authentic. We often have characters who are actual historic persons, and must learn what we can about their personalities, goals, and actions. Inferring their underlying motives and passions may be difficult, depending on how much written information is available.
How does an author enter the world of ancient cultures? We can use imagination to recreate how life might have been in historic Greece, Egypt or Britain drawing from research and literature. While documents are essential, often there are information gaps. Authors face missing links about events or cultural practices, especially personal facts about historical people and the others who surrounded them. It can be a real challenge to gather information about an historical person’s emotions and intentions. We can draw inferences from documentation in historical sources about what they did – but is that enough to craft a story and flesh out a personality?
To me, historical documents and records, and the inferences authors can draw from them, are not sufficient. This is where the visionary process comes in. We can use our psychic abilities to envision and enter distant worlds and unfamiliar societies. Some call this time traveling, or undertaking a shamanic journey. In the author’s inner experience, she or he actually visits a far-away time and place.
Much direction for my own writing comes from these psychic practices. As a long-time meditator trained in eastern mystical traditions, I enter meditative states to gain insight and inspiration. As times I receive communications from spirit guides that provide key scenes or profound understandings. When writing my first Maya novel, Dreaming the Maya Fifth Sun, I called upon an ancient Mayan priestess who appeared as a spirit guide to teach me their cosmology and spirituality. One time I needed a ceremonial scene in which my protagonist, also a Mayan priestess, sought prophetic visions and journeyed far into space for the cosmic view. In meditation, I sent this request to my guide and she unfolded an entire scene to my inner sight. It was perfect! With very little modification I used it in my story.
For my second Maya novel, The Visionary Mayan Queen: Yohl Ik’nal of Palenque, I needed a number of scenes involving Underworld journeys and encounters with Death Lords. To get a direct experience of this, I used a shamanic journey process set to rapid drumming. To link my journey to the Mayan Underworld, I used imagery from sources I’d studied, where the vision-seeker enters a cave that descends to the Underworld, finds the roots of a sacred ceiba tree and follows the roots into the depths of Xibalba (Mayan term for Underworld). An animal uay – spirit guide is always involved when one is taken to the Underworld. Mine is a red-eyed lizard or snake. I recall one such session where I had an especially powerful and dramatic encounter with the Death Lords, deep in a watery cavern with dripping stalactites and bats. I used it almost verbatim in my novel.
How does this differ from imagination? To me it’s the “image in action” when one is acting within the alternate reality. I’m not simply letting my mind speculate and dream up another world-time-culture. I’m actually there, participating in the events. For those moments, this scenario is my reality. Of course, I must write down all the details once I come out of the trance state, or else they slip away.
Visionary Fiction in historic settings is written by authors who themselves are visionaries. We must “be there” to write fully and authentically about ancient worlds and different realities. Our mission is to re-create these the best we can in our fiction, to bring their timeless wisdom, lofty principles, and advanced societies to our readers. We hope to inspire a higher vision of human potential, one that motivates people to reach outward, to fully develop and express, their own higher selves.
Leonide Martin, DrPH, is a retired university professor, published many professional books and received a Writers’ Digest award for short fiction. She writes historical fiction about the Maya after years as a Maya researcher, living in Yucatan, Mexico and studying with elders and shamans. Taking apprenticeship, she became a Maya Fire Woman and Solar Initiate in the Itza tradition. Her trips to Maya sites, participation in rituals and archeological study bring factual accuracy to her writing, which blends scientific views with those of indigenous Mayas. Captivated by their unique arts, mysticism and cosmology, her writing about ancient Maya civilization brings the culture and people vividly to life.