By the pricking of my thumbs,
Something wicked this way comes.
-Shakespeare Macbeth Act 4, scene 1.
you like to lose yourself in a long, spooky story? One in which the
characters gradually seem to step out of the pages and into your life?
If you shiver with both anticipation and dread at the idea of submitting
yourself to a dark, dangerous, sensual force, then the Lives of the
Mayfair Witches trilogy may be just your thing.
Anne Rice introduced the world to the Mayfair family of Witches
in 1990 with the publishing of The Witching Hour, the first book
in the saga of the lives of the Mayfair Witches. This was followed
by Lasher published in 1993 and Taltos in 1994. Before introducing
the Mayfair Witch family, Rice was enthralling her readers with
dark tales of Vampires, beginning with the very popular Interview
With The Vampire published in 1976. Rice, quoted in Katherine Ramsland's
Witches' Companion, says of the Mayfair story; "The Mayfair books
have been written in periods of optimism, good humour and high energy.
They are fun no matter how dark and frightening they become, whereas
the Vampire books have almost always been produced during periods
of intense anxiety and anguish. The Mayfairs are always utterly
exhilarating. There is always happiness and good humour to counterbalance
the darkness." The Mayfairs are not Wiccan Witches, mind you, but
hereditary ones, complete with supernatural powers, a familiar spirit
and ancestors burned at the stake. Rice has convincingly created
a family of Witches that conform to the century old stereotype of
what Witches were popularly supposed to be: incestuous murderers
who delve into Black Magic with the aid of a Familiar Spirit or
The word 'Familiar' comes from the Latin 'famalus' meaning an attendant.
Familiars are traditionally thought to be of three types. Discarnate
human beings like a ghost; a non-human entity such as an elemental
or planetary spirit, or a material creature such as a cat, toad,
dog or ferret. Familiars of the non-human spirit type sometimes
indwell in a particular object such as a jewel, a crystal ball or
a bottle. The Mayfair's Familiar Spirit is called 'Lasher' and he
is specifically linked to an emerald which has his name engraved
on the back. This emerald is a Witch necklace passed down the line
to his specially chosen Witches in each generation. The covenant
between the Witches and Lasher resembles the pact supposedly made
between Witches and the Devil. The Mayfair's pact with Lasher involves
him being obedient to the Witches in return for their bearing female
children who can 'see' him. Giving the Mayfair emerald to the child
marks her as the chosen one. Each child becomes stronger through
inbreeding so that by the time the thirteenth one is born she will
be capable of bringing Lasher into the world - reminiscent of Rosemary's
Lasher in turn promises that when he comes through, he will bring
all the deceased Mayfairs back to life and grant them immortality.
He brings wealth to the family, creates the Mayfair Legacy of money
and property, reveals the future and avenges wrongdoings for them.
Lasher is fed and sustained by being taken notice of; he thrives
on people's consciousness of him. He has to concentrate very hard
and expend much energy to exist visibly and sees himself through
the Mayfair Witches' perception of him. "To concentrate was to exist.
When spirits dream, they don't know themselves." The only way the
Witches can get any privacy from him is to play music or wallpaper
the house with highly decorative patterns which fascinate him and
keep him occupied.
The Mayfairs begin their linage with a 'merry-begot', Suzanne, the
first Mayfair Witch who creates the Mayfair name by adopting the
words 'May Fair', which is where she was conceived at the Beltane
revels. Through the following centuries the Mayfairs migrate from
Scotland, where Suzanne was born, to Amsterdam, France, Haiti and
finally to New Orleans, where they settle and multiply. Suzanne
Mayfair was the one to first call Lasher forth out of the primeval
darkness where he was floating as if in utero. She stood in a circle
of stones and traced a Pentagram and summoned him from the Air.
"Lasher, for the wind that you send that lashes the grasslands,
for the wind that lashes the leaves from the trees."
Lasher's manifesting causes a hot disturbance of the air like a
mirage, and he comes because he has a great desire to be alive.
He can possess people and things such as plants and animals, living
or dead; he just wants to be corporeal. He is a shapeshifter and
can cause genetic mutations in whatever he chooses to possess. When
he finally succeeds, after hundreds of years, in being born in flesh
through the thirteenth Witch in the Mayfair line, he chooses to
come through at the Winter Solstice as he believes it is the time
of greatest earth energy.
I hear your voice low in the dark Like the notes of the harp player
That carve the still air Into a sensuous and subtle imagery of sound
And my senses are drowned By the scent of the oleander and the musk
Of the datura dimly shining in the dark While your voice troubles
the still air - Jack Parsons Witch Woman
doesn't pretend to be writing about contemporary Neo-Pagan Witchcraft
practices and does not claim to be representing Wiccan belief. She
says herself that she knows very little about the modern Neo-Pagan
movement. In the question and answer section of her website, www.annerice.com/ques_wch.htm
she had this to say: "Now when it comes to real Witches and people
who claim to have a tradition in their family of occult practices,
you are on your own. I don't know anything about that. I will say
that one of the most unpleasant letters I ever received in my life
... one of the few really unpleasant letters was from a Wiccan Witch
who did just accuse me of everything under the sun for writing The
Witching Hour. It was like receiving a letter from a member of any
fundamentalist religious group - she was just furious that I had not
described Witches in a way that conformed to her beliefs. But I was
a bit chilled by that experience, it was bizarre".
The distinguishing factors of this non-Wiccan Witch family are:
use unseen forces to their advantage whether healing or harming
and have mental control over matter.
have an hereditary familiar called Lasher with whom they have
sexual relations, making him therefore an Incubus.
emerald Witches' necklace is passed down to most powerful Witch
in each generation along with the familiar spirit Lasher.
via incest is used to keep the power within the family.
provides the family with wealth beginning with a never ending
purse of gold coins.
is one chosen Witch in each generation who controls the family
and consorts with Lasher.
the chosen Witches are female except for one.
are thirteen Witches who are so chosen and have Lasher as a consort
made of the hair and bone of each chosen Witch are kept by their
successors for use in contacting the deceased predecessor.
'keyhole' shape is a recurring theme throughout the book, the
Mayfair house has a keyhole doorway and the family crypt is decorated
with a keyhole also.
probably begin to want a 'Lasher' of your own as you read this book,
I certainly did. The Lives of the Mayfair Witches mythology provides
a good, dark counter balance to such popular Witchy tales as the ethereal
Avalon series by Marion Zimmer Bradley and Terry Pratchett's funny
Witches from Discworld - loveable as they are. The Mayfair saga provides
a Witch image for those who like a little more fear and risk in their
vicarious supernatural sexual exploits!
I call'd the devil, and he came, And with awe his form I scan'd;
He is not ugly, and is not lame, But really a handsome and charming
man. A man in the prime of life is the devil, Obliging, a man of
the world, and civil; A diplomatist too, well skill'd in debate,
He talks quite glibly of church and state. - Heinrich Heine.