Of pirate ships and Pagan ships: talking with Ginger Wood

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For many Pagans autumn is a time for endings and beginnings. The seasonal energies influence not only our spiritual work but they also bleed into our mundane experience both consciously and unconsciously. Now is the time to say goodbye to old projects, bask in the revelry of accomplishments and look towards the possibilities in tomorrow.

Ginger Wood

Virginia Chandler

For Ginger Wood, this particular Samhain has been all of these things and more. As fantasy fiction writer Virginia Chandler, she has reached another exciting apex as she celebrates the release of her latest book, The Devil’s Treasure. From that point, Ginger can see the tops of many other mountains, some she’s climbed and others she has yet to summit. In addition, Ginger finds herself sitting at a proverbial base camp saying goodbye to an incredible two-year adventure as the National First Officer of Covenant of the Goddess (CoG).

Due to her busy schedule, it has been very difficult to catch up with her. This week I finally had that opportunity and we talked about her writing, her spiritual path, Covenant of the Goddess (CoG) and her future.

Heather:  Thanks for taking the time out of your hectic schedule to talk to me.  First, tell me about this new book called The Devil’s Treasure. Can you give us idea of what it’s about?  

Ginger:  I spent most of my childhood in Charleston, South Carolina where I heard many tales about Blackbeard and the East Coast pirates. Blackbeard’s lost treasure and his blockade of Charleston Harbor in 1718 is the kernels of this tale.

H: What does the title mean?

G: There’s a famous quote by Blackbeard wherein he answers the question of where is his treasure?  He allegedly responded, “Only the devil and I know the whereabouts of my treasure, and the one of us who lives the longest should take it all.”  So, I took that quote and built the tale around the “devil” being a metaphor for someone that he actually knew.

H: Your first two books focused on land-based, medieval mythology.  The Last Dragon of the North, co-written with your brother, was a fictional tale about dragon hunting.  The Green Knight’s Apprentice was based on Arthurian myths.  Why did you move away from that world?  

bookcoverG: I love a good mystery and I’m sort of a geek when it comes to focusing in on something. So when I was having a conversation with my friend John Matthews…about Blackbeard’s blockade of Charleston Harbor in 1718, my theory of what Blackbeard’s real motivation was for that event birthed the idea of a new book. So I started really digging into Blackbeard’s legend and his lost treasure with the goal of … finding out what happened to his treasure and why he blockaded Charleston Harbor for just the delivery of a medicine chest. 

I had originally really wanted to write a Pirate novel about the infamous “Money Pit” of Oak Island on Nova Scotia, but I could not formulate a decent tale with the facts that I kept getting from my research on that topic. Yet the more that I researched Blackbeard and the “Golden Age of Pirates”, the more clearly I saw a tale unfolding.

Heather:  Why Part 1 and Part 2? 

G:  This is not a quick tale and since it’s more like a puzzle….I’ve had to write it with much patience, making sure that the pieces all fit… The reader will need patience as well to follow the clues so to speak. This first volume is about 130 pages and has Parts I and II which are “The Devil’s Triangle” and “The Devil’s Box.”  Part I is an introduction to the two main characters and sets up the why of quite a few of the later plot elements that act as catalysts for the characters to do what they do later in their lives.  Part II tosses a few twists and wrenches into the tale and opens the door for the devil to begin influencing not only the Blackbeard character but others as well.

Remember the “devil” in my tale is not the Christian Satan, but a metaphor as I see it used by Blackbeard in his famous quote.

H: How much do you incorporate your Pagan spirituality into your novels?  

G: The Green Knight’s Apprentice is 100% Pagan-influenced with the tale traveling the 8 Sabbats that most Pagans celebrate throughout the year, me making prayers and offerings to the Arthurian archetypes as I wrote it and formal meditations asking my Arthurian Guides how They wanted the tale to be told.  The Last Dragon of the North is simply an adventure tale with no spiritual overtones at all; in fact, it was purposely written devoid of any magic or wizards as we … wanted to tell a gritty, “how would you really kill a dragon” story. For this Pirate series, The Devil’s Treasure, it may not be Pagan-focused, but I have certainly added a few occult, as in mystery, elements to the plot. A new personal Muse has come to me in the form of a Mermaid as I write it. She… keeps me on-track and every now and again taps me on the shoulder to put in her two pence worth.

GreenKnight Cover GraphicH: Muses? So your spirituality directly affects your writing process?

G: Indeed, I have Muses that … bring potential stories to my attention, offer advice and direction as I create, and critique, in their own manner, the words that I write. My spirituality affects everything that I do to some degree and when it comes to expressing a vision or image with words on a page, I often rely very heavily upon my Guides to lend me a helping hand.

H: Let’s talk Paganism. You are a High Priestess of GryphonSong Clan in Atlanta.  What is your specific path?  

G: Wow, okay I’m going to try and be succinct here without seeming to be intentionally aloof and mysterious. My path is very much that of a modern Gnostic or modern Mystic – I seek Knowledge and Enlightenment. My personal path is very heavily influenced by the metaphorical Grail Quest, and I most closely follow the Arthurian mythos for that Journey. When it comes to formal worship, GryphonSong Clan celebrates both Esbats and the 8 Sabbats; our Esbats are very Witchy wherein we cast a circle and do groovy Witch things while our Sabbats are Druidic and are based on the Keltrian Tradition. I’m a member of the Henge of Keltria, a Druidic Tradition, and I have studied with the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids (OBOD)

I am an Arthurian Priestess at heart, a Seeker of the Grail, and I hope to one day see the fabled city of Sarras.

H: You mentioned earlier that you are a born-and-raised Southerner. In your experience, what is the reality for Pagans in the so-called Bible Belt?  

G: The reality is that we have a gajillion Christian churches.  But based on conversations that I’ve had with witches from around the country, the prejudices that Southern witches experience are not unique.  I do think that perhaps Southern Pagans might feel a bit more persecuted, and the Southern Christians seem to be very bold and vocal with their disapproval of anything that’s not mainstream Christianity… but at least in Atlanta, the spiritual community has become very diverse…

H: Do you feel the Southern Pagan community here is different from others around the country? Are their regional difference in Pagan practice?

G: Based on my experiences, we’re not that different from other Pagan communities around the country. We come together when necessary…we love a good festival….I’ve attended rituals with Pagans from many US regions and the chants, songs and holidays are all fairly synonymous and cohesive. The biggest differences in worship and practice that I’ve encountered have been when I’ve had the opportunity to attend rituals with my Pagan kin from across the Pond (UK).  Those rituals have been very much like Mystery Plays and more Druidic in nature. The Brits don’t really go for the “Lord” and “Lady” titles and the Witchy bling such as robes, necklaces, rings.

Turner Family Support Team

2011 LLL/CoG Turner Family Support Team (from left to right): Rev. Charissa Iskiwitch, Stephanie Turner, Rev. Ginger Wood, Lisa Palmer, and Rev. Michelle Boshears

H: Many of those observations have come through your work with the national organization Covenant of the Goddess.  Were these past two years the first time you served on its National Board?

G: [Previously] I had only served as an assistant to the National First Officer in the capacity of NetCo or email list manager. This was my first officer position on the national level. I’ve served in every office on the local level for Dogwood Local Council.

H: Looking back at the two years, what are some of the highlights?  What were some of the more difficult parts of the jobs?

G: Serving such a large, diverse, and consensus-based organization has been extremely rewarding and, at times, incredibly frustrating. The high points were finding the common ground where we could all as a membership come to consensus on matters of import to CoG including formulating official statements from CoG in support of the Parliament of World Religions, Indigenous Peoples, and the Doctrine of Discovery; and partnering with Selena Fox and Circle Sanctuary on numerous issues …Keeping tabs on slippery issues such as the inmate in Massachusetts who claims to be a Wiccan and asked for a legal name change was both nerve wracking and intense. All in all my tenure was a Journey of Service to Coventina and my CoGKin that was a huge learning experience for me and, I believe, helped me to grow as a Priestess and Witch.

Covenant of the Goddess

Covenant of the Goddess

H: While it helped you grow, the demanding job can also take a personal toll.  Why bother?

G: Serving CoG, or any formal organization of Pagans …is going to be and is HARD work. But it is Service to the Goddess, hopefully given in perfect love and perfect trust, and for me, was an essential part of my Service as a 3rd Degree Priestess. Personally it was a goal of mine to do this for the Goddess, in CoG’s case, the face of Coventina. I had and still have a shrine to Coventina in my house, and I offered many prayers to Her during these two years. On a larger scale, I do think it’s important for the formal organizations to not only continue what they started 20 or 30 years ago, but to keep moving forward and address the old and new issues that Pagans face as a whole.

H: In your opinion, where should CoG, as a Pagan organization, being moving to? What do you see as CoG’s future, purpose and direction?  

G: CoG is a ship, so to speak, for its members and friends / allies to use when a ship is needed. There are times when Pagans or Goddess Worshippers need a joining of the tribes to weather, face, and sometimes even defeat issues that inhibit our right to worship. Those are hard battles, painful ones that are really tough to fight on your own. CoG and other organizations such as Circle Sanctuary have fought many of those battles for Pagans … will continue to address these types of issues. It is my hope that CoG will continue to be a grass roots driven entity that works from the bottom up; that we will continue to support the positive and very important Interfaith and Intrafaith work that we do worldwide, and that when the battles come at us, we will rally and stand shoulder-to-shoulder for our right to worship.

H: Pagan ships and Pirate ships.  I am sensing a theme. [laugh] Now that you are done as National First Officer and your current book is nearing its release, What is your next big project?

9781554048953_p0_v1_s260x420G: CoG’s 2014 annual meeting, known as Grand Council and Merry Meet, will be held in Atlanta. I am very involved in that business. That project will keep me busy until next August 2014 for sure.

I am working on Parts III and IV of The Devil’s Treasure series right now, which are called “Devil’s Island” and “The Devil and Edward Teach” to be released in March 2014. Part V, “The Devil’s Treasure”, is the finale of the series and will be released in the summer of 2014.

I am very blessed to have several projects that have me collaborating with some of my very favorite people and very favorite artists.  I’ve got a graphic novel coming out in late 2014 called Ristro that is a science fiction tale I wrote.  The artist is my longtime friend and very talented artist, Garret Izumi…. The prequel to Dragon is in the works, The Northern Band, set for late 2014, and the sequel, A Nest of Greens, will come after that.  The cover for The Northern Band is being created by another good friend and talented artist, David Harper. I’m working with John Matthews on a project that will be an Oracle based on the Anglo Saxon concept of Fate… and we hope to get that released in 2015… I’m most excited about the collaborations with Garret, David, and John, as I consider those partnerships to be gifts from the Gods that I will cherish on a very deep and personal level.

H:  Thank you for your sharing your time and thoughts with The Wild Hunt readers. More importantly  thank you for devoting your energy and expertise to CoG and greater Pagan community.  On a personal note, it was an honor to serve with you on the CoG National Board and a phenomenal learning experience. One last thing, where can readers find your books?

G: All Virginia Chandler novels are available through Amazon in paperback and digital formats. Thank You. 

While Ginger Wood’s tenure as CoG’s First Officer will end on October 31st,  Kathy Lezon will take office the following day. In the near future, I will be publishing a personal interview with Kathy, CoG’s new First Officer.  We’ll hear about her own hopes for the future of CoG as well as Pagan life in the Sunshine State and her experiences working with Lady Liberty League on Florida’s many Civil Rights cases this past year.