Background and Synopsis
For those who have not read The Stone of Destiny, here is a brief summary of the plot:
Lia Fail, Ireland’s fabled “Stone of Destiny” – originally the Stone that Jacob slept on at Bethel – has for centuries been making its way inexorably toward Inisfail, “the land of the sun’s going” in the uttermost west. For the time being, it has come to rest in St. Halistan’s church in the town of Santa Piedra on the northern California coast. As of yet, only one man knows this; but supernatural beings, both good and evil, are desperately seeking the Stone and its power. John Izaak, linguist and amateur alchemist, has disappeared for reasons that no one can explain. The truth is that he has been spirited out of the world by powers who want the information that only he can provide about this Stone.
Young Morgan Izaak has reasons of his own for desiring extraordinary power: among other things, his mother is dying of cancer. Morgan and his friend Eny Ariello get caught up in the quest for the Stone and are drawn into a cosmic drama that involves mythical beings such as the Tuatha De Danann (Ireland’s Fairy Folk), the Fomorians (a race of giants), the Fir Bolg (“Bag Men”), and an evil enchantress known as the Morrigu. The Morrigu, disguised as Madame Medea, keeper of an alchemical supply shop, enlists Morgan’s help in her own search for the Stone, hinting that she will help him cure his mother if they are successful; but Eny, who through a series of circumstances makes a journey into the Sidhe (Faery), encounters the Fir Bolg, and learns of the Morrigu’s designs, opposes him in this plan. With the help of Simon Brach, a man of the De Danann disguised as a church custodian, they discover Lia Fail in the tower of St. Halistan’s church. Simon tells them that he has been sent by the De Danann to take the Stone to its final destiny – the “land of the sun’s going” beyond the edge of the world. But through Morgan’s own folly the Stone falls into the hands of the enchantress at the conclusion of a fantastic supernatural battle between the forces of good and evil. To Morgan’s great surprise, his mother’s cancer goes into remission without any help from the Stone or his alchemical potions. He has learned an important lesson about letting go … and about the meaning of faith and trust.
In spite of this, the question remains: what will happen if Lia Fail is permitted to remain the Morrigu’s hands? And is there any way to get it back?
This is where the story of The Sword of Paracelsus begins …
Here’s a list of the major characters appearing in The Stone of Destiny and (for the most part) in The Sword of Paracelsus:
Morgan is about 12 years old; skinny, freckled, with a pointy nose and a shock of unruly straw-colored hair. Morgan also has serious dental problems: somehow or other, his mouth grew about twice as many teeth as it had room for, so that he has been subjected to some serious oral surgery in the course of his short life and now has braces. Other kids at school make fun of him and say he looks like a “robot.” Morgan also suffers with asthma.
Morgan is highly intelligent, inventive, quick on the uptake, but often in trouble as a result of his unorthodox endeavors and experiments – similar in this way to the young Tom Edison. He is lonely and keeps to himself. Except for Eny Ariello, he has few friends. But he also has a genuinely sensitive and compassionate heart, largely because of the misfortunes and rejections he has experienced in his short life.
Morgan has inherited from his father, John Izaak (who, at the time of this story, has gone missing in some mysterious way), a fascination with Alchemy. He is trying to “confect” the Philosopher’s Stone in his “lab” in the church tower. Into this mix comes the story of Lia Fail, the Irish “Stone of Destiny.” His quest for this “Stone of Power” and the healing “Elixir of Life” becomes an all-consuming passion when he learns that his mother, Mavis, has been diagnosed with cancer.
John Q. P. (Quintus Pontius) Izaak
John Izaak is Morgan’s father. During World War II, he served as a translator and linguistic specialist; later taught at the Military Linguistics Institute which is located in Morgan’s hometown, Santa Piedra, California. Most recently he served a professor of Historical Linguistics at the Santa Piedra Institute of Linguistics. Through his interest in philology and folklore, he was drawn into a fascination with Alchemy, which he pursued avidly up until his mysterious disappearance. John does not appear in the story of The Stone of Destiny, but figures significantly in the plot of The Sword of Paracelsus .
Morgan’s mother. When we meet her, she is very frail, almost transparent – fading away under the growing influence of her fatal disease. She is a couple of years younger than her husband; gray-eyed, with graying blond hair which is now so fine and thin that it looks like “angel hair.” When backlit, it looks for all the world like a halo. As a matter of fact, the closer Mavis draws toward death, the more angel-like and unearthly she becomes. She displays a great inner beauty – she almost glows from within – and understanding of transcendent truth as she grows weaker and weaker. God is becoming a very real and tangible presence for her. She is beginning to see beyond the confines of this present world.
Eny (pronounced Ennie or like the word “any”; from Irish Eithne, pronounced Enya) is the 11-year-old daughter of George and Moira Ariello. She is petite, pretty, and bronze-skinned; on the whole looks distinctly Hispanic except for her one blue eye (the left eye – Eny has heterochromia, two different colored eyes) and a coppery tint in her hair. In temperament, she is honest, forthright, straightforward, even bold, but in a sweet and innocent way. She speaks only when she has something to say, is usually poker-faced, very matter-of-fact about what she considers to be the obvious truth. She is guileless and outspoken when necessary, always telling the truth as she sees it. Morgan wouldn’t ever admit it in so many words, but Eny is his best friend.
Eny is of a mystical and spiritual bent. She is sensitive to unseen realities and often irritates Morgan by speaking openly and at great length about them. Her double-colored eyes symbolize her gift of “second sight.” She is heir both to her father’s stories about the Mission, the Church, Old California, the Indians, the Spaniards, and the treasures brought from Galicia; and to her mother’s tales of Irish folklore. She also loves Irish folk music and is an avid fiddler.
George is Eny’s father. He’s also the on-site caretaker and custodian of St. Halistans Church. A stocky, dark-haired man with a ready smile and sparkling brown eyes. Hard-working, good natured, generous, and hospitable, with a quick, dry wit and a heart of gold. In the past he struggled with a serious drinking problem, but has overcome it with the help of Peter Alcuin, Rector at St. Halistan’s.
George was raised Catholic, though he now works for an Episcopal church. He’s a great storyteller and a walking storehouse of information about the history and folklore of Hispanic California, and of Santa Piedra in particular. He traces his lineage back to the early Californios, and through them to Galician Spaniards who, in the late 18th century, helped Father Junipero Serra found the California Missions, especially the Mission at Santa Piedra la Coruna (La Iglesia de San Sebastian Pio y Santiago de Compostela). George retains some of the Catholic reverence for relics, including a faith in their healing powers; his is a sort of “Christian-magical” view of life.
George’s wife. She is of Welsh-Irish descent. Her maiden name was Thomas (Welsh); her father was Morgan Thomas (whose mother, it turns out, was Myfanwy Davies) of Bangor on the Isle of Anglesey. Her mother was a Dehoney by birth, and her father, Domhnuill Dehoney, had emigrated to America from Dingle (where Gaelic is still spoken) around the turn of the century (19th to 20th), and eventually made his way to the West Coast. Moira’s father worked in Monterey’s Cannery Row during the 1930s and 40s.
Like her husband, Moira is humble and hard-working, but she’s also strong-willed and stubborn. Her relationship with George is stable but less than happy. She has a wealth of her own lore and stories – Irish and Celtic myth and legend – to share with Eny. Moira is thin but tough and wiry. She was once a great beauty, but her beauty has become worn and faded with the years. She has abundant, unruly, auburn hair with green eyes and a sparkling, infectious smile.
Simon is an extremely important, pivotal character: a mysterious but oddly attractive figure who just “shows up” on the doorstep of St. Halistan’s one day looking for work. He’s an elusive, “magical,” sort of person, unpredictable and always full of surprises.
Simon is an “older” man of indeterminate age; old, yet strangely “ageless.” There is a feeling of untapped, veiled, barely perceived power in him. And yet, from the start, one of his most distinguishing and characteristic attributes is his remarkable humility.
In physical appearance, Simon is tall, lanky, thin, and grizzled. His hair is gray, thinning but not receding, and longish. His chin is usually stubbly, his cheekbones high and sharp, his face angular, his complexion leathery, wrinkled, and weathered, his jaw narrow, and his bright blue eyes sparkle from within the deep caverns of their sockets. He is an accomplished fiddler in the Scottish, Irish, and French Canadian traditions, and this becomes an important point of connection between him and Eny. When he arrives on the doorstep of St. Halistan’s, his fiddle and duffle bag are all he has with him besides the clothes on his back.
Who is Simon in actuality? If truth were to be told, he is in fact a person “not of this world” –one of the Danaans or Daoine Sidhe, whose fate is intertwined with the fate of the Lia Fail, Stone of Destiny. Simon has wandered long in this world, under many names and guises, seeking the Stone and an opportunity to transport it at last to the hidden island of Inisfail, beyond the extremity of the world, at the “place of the sun’s going,” beyond the reach of the Morrigan and all others who desire to possess and use it for evil, self-promoting ends. He has been known in different times and places as Dan Sheehan, Olamh Folla, Irial Faidh, and Jeremy Bran. A long trail of clues (as a Danaan, Simon is not all-knowing) has led him to Santa Piedra in his quest for the Stone. A great deal is resting upon his success in this venture; far more than mortal eyes can see or mortal minds are able to guess.
Rev. Peter Alcuin
Rector of St. Halistan’s Episcopal Church. A transplanted Englishman, originally an Anglican rector in the Greater London area, now an Episcopalian since emigrating to America. In physical appearance, he is on the short side, stout, red-faced, bulbous-nosed, and balding. He is never seen in anything but his clerical suit and collar.
Peter is a genuine man of God – good, true, humble, dedicated, studious, prayerful, and faithful – who cares deeply about his flock. He is deeply concerned about the situation the Izaaks are facing with Mavis’s cancer. As a scholar he is top-notch, and has a deep knowledge of Scripture, Church History, General History, Myth, Legend, Folklore, linguistics, and biblical languages. He is also a great lover of poetry and literature. He and Morgan’s father, John Izaak, were great friends and were often known to lose themselves in hours-long intellectual debates and discussions of the most erudite and arcane nature.
Technically the ancient Irish goddess of battle, the Morrigu is the chief antagonist of the story; the Antagonist behind all other antagonists; the Evil Enchantress of ancient Irish lore. She can change shape at will, but her “normal” appearance is that of a beautiful dark-haired woman in shining garments. Her voice is smooth, soft, and soothing, and there is an almost heavenly glow about her which follows her as she walks. Her eyes are green and radiant.
The Morrigu makes her first appearance in this story as Madame Medea, an intriguing, enticing, darkly attractive Bohemian gypsy-like character who suddenly shows up in Santa Piedra and sets up a combination coffeehouse and Alchemy Shop on Front Street.
The Morrigu comes into this story from “the Sidhe,” the Irish Fairyland or Otherworld. She is seeking the stone Lia Fail. Centuries of searching and following clues have led her to suspect that it is in Santa Piedra. She doesn’t know this for certain, but she has strong reasons for believing it is so. By setting up shop as Madame Medea, she is making her final move.
An adversary for Morgan on the human level; his nemesis and antagonist at Santa Piedra Jr. High School. Baxter is rich, good-looking, popular, good in sports; strong and stocky, blue-eyed, sandy-haired, with a strong cleft chin. He is a classic bully, and he specializes in making Morgan’s life miserable.
Brevard John Knowles
Baxter’s father. Wealthy, powerful, highly respected around town. Like his son, he is handsome and powerful-looking, with dark eyes and dark slicked-back hair. He’s a member of the Santa Piedra City Council and a successful businessman, owner of an entire block of expensive beachfront property on Front Street, between Vista Del Mar and Coruna Avenue. On this block can be found Uncle John’s Restaurant, The Knowles Book Knoll, Mr. B’s Formal Wear, and La Coruna Gifts and Cards, all owned and operated by the Knowles family. It is precisely in the middle of this block that Madame Medea’s shop mysteriously appears.
Beachfront property, of course, is at a premium; Brevard is “landlocked” at the moment. This is a tremendous frustration to him, because he has an ambition to build a posh bed-and-breakfast establishment to attract wealthy tourists. He has his eye on the church property: St. Halistan’s itself, the Rectory, and the duplex where the Izaaks and the Ariellos live. Thus he is motivated, as a member of the city council, to show that the church, and especially its tower – a gothic stone structure – is not up to safety codes. Either the church must have its buildings repaired – at great cost – or they will be condemned.
Son of Balor, Lord of the Fomorians. Falor and the rest of the Fomorians are huge, lumbering, bungling giants who are not very intelligent and who enjoy food, drink, ease, and material comforts. They are the sworn enemies of the Danaans (Simon Brach’s people) and servants to the tyrannical Morrigu, who dominates the Sidhe with their assistance. They can change shape or grow supernaturally to the stature of “fairy-tale giants” and thus become deadly foes if pushed into a fight. Falor is the Morrigu’s chief henchman. In appearance he is large, bulky, burly, round-headed, bald, and one-eyed (he wears a black eye-patch). We always see him dressed in a tattered black suit that appears to be two sizes too small.
(pronounced “YO-hee”) Chief man of the Fir-Bolg, a race of drudges who have the general appearance of ugly old men and women with pinched faces, large noses, knobby knees and elbows, and sparse, straggly hair. They dress in drab, ragged clothing and carry large leather bags at their belts with which they carry on their work, which mainly consists in lugging things around for their imperious Fomorian overlords (thus the name Fir Bolg, “Men of the Bags”). The bags can also be transformed into small boats or coracles. Eochy is resigned to his subordinate status, but also far superior to his masters in terms of intelligence and understanding. He works for Madame Medea (the Morrigu), but in actuality he is a spy in the service of Simon Brach and the Danaans. In the end, Eochy will turn out to be an unexpected ally to Morgan and Eny.
A number of Eochy’s kin, the Fir Bolg of the Sidhe, play an important role in both The Stone of Destiny and The Sword of Paracelsus. Notable among them are Rury, Semeon, Sengann, Genann, and Crimthann.
(Click on map to enlarge)
Santa Piedra, California. Morgan Izaak’s hometown.
The Sidhe, also known as Faerie. The Otherworld beneath the earth, refuge of the Tuatha De Danann and Fir Bolg. Currently under the domination of the Morrigu and her Fomorian henchmen.
Alchemy is the ancient science of transformation. In practice, it is based upon Aristotle’s cosmology and the ancient Greek theory of the Four Elements: earth, air, fire, and water. Philosophically it reflects the concept of Unity, or the idea that “One is All and All is One.”
According to the alchemists, a given substance has the potential to become another substance for the simple reason that both substances are, in the final analysis, two forms of the same thing – the prima materia. But this process of transformation (or transmutation as they called it) entails a long and laborious series of smaller transformations, each one effected by the unrelenting application of heat, pressure, and friction in various forms. Transmutation was supposed to be accomplished in seven steps identified as calcination, dissolution, separation, conjunction, fermentation, distillation, and coagulation.
The Philosopher’s Stone was conceived by the alchemists as a kind of catalyst capable of facilitating and accelerating transmutation, especially in its final stages. In their smoky laboratories these medieval precursors of the modern science of chemistry spent hours, days, weeks, months, years, even lifetimes plying their pestles and mortars, stoking their athanors, and distilling their dark potions from cucurbit to alembic in an arduous attempt to “confect” the “Stone,” most often described as a fine powder of either a white or pinkish color.
Today the alchemists of the Middle Ages and early Renaissance are remembered chiefly as pseudo-scientific quacks obsessed with turning lead into gold. It’s true that some of them understood this to be their ultimate goal. Gold was, after all, considered to be the purest and most highly refined form of matter, and the Philosopher’s Stone itself was sometimes called aurum potabile, or “potable gold.”
But the Stone was also believed to be the Elixir Vitae, the healing Elixir of Life; and alchemy, in the broad view, was in fact something much bigger, deeper, and more inclusive than mere “gold cookery.” For many of its practitioners it was a philosophy that embraced the whole of life. The spiritual implications of transmutation, particularly the kind of transmutation that results from stress, strain, and affliction, were not lost upon these astutely perceptive minds. The alchemical maxim “That which is above is as that which is below, and that which is below is as that which is above” was often interpreted as having a special application to the processes of conversion and regeneration. Thinkers such as Jacob Boehme (1575-1624), the German Lutheran Mystic, followed this line of reasoning to its ultimate conclusion, eventually becoming completely disillusioned with physical alchemy and abandoning it for a form of contemplative Christianity that found expression through the language of alchemical transmutation.
Among the most famous (or perhaps most notorious) of the old-time alchemists were Paracelsus (Theophrastus Philippus Aureolus Bombastus von Hohenheim, 1493-1541), an itinerant Swiss physician who carried a long sword rumored to contain the Elixir of Life in its pommel; Nicholas Flamel (1330-?), of Harry Potter fame; John Dee (1527-1608 or 1609), a noted mathematician, astronomer, astrologer, navigator, and consultant to Queen Elizabeth I; and Edward Kelley (1555-1597), Dee’s scurrilous partner in alchemical endeavors, a convicted English criminal and a self-described scryer and spiritual medium. The history of Dee and Kelley represents a significant thread in the plot of The Sword of Paracelsus.
The Enochian Language and Alphabet
Along with his many other pursuits and interests, the alchemist John Dee became obsessed with a desire to communicate with angels. From them he hoped to learn the secrets of creation and obtain the key to all knowledge. In his journals he claimed that they had taught him their speech and revealed to him their system of writing. He called this language “Enochian” on the assumption that Enoch, the seventh from Adam, had been the last mortal man to speak it (it was also known as “Adamical,” “Angelical,” and “The Celestial Speech”). Inscriptions in the Enochian tongue show up at key points in the story of The Sword of Paracelsus. Below are two tables displaying the letters of the Enochian alphabet along with their names and phonetic values:
(Click on table to enlarge)
Pronunciation Guide to Some of the More Difficult Names in The Stone of Destiny and The Sword of Paracelsus
Baile – BAY-la or BAY-lee
Badb – Bibe
Beinn Meallain – Ben MEL-lane
Brighid – Breed
Crimthann – CREE-van
Cundri – KOON-dree
Crucha – CROO-cha*
Dana – DAH-na
Danaan – duh-NAY-un
Daoine – DEE-na; Daoine Sidhe – DEE-na SHEE
Eba Eochaid – AY-ba YO-chid*
Eny – EN-nee or like the word any
Eire/Eriu – AIR-ya
Eithne – EN-ya
Eochy – YO-chee*
Etain – eh-TANE
Fedelm – FAY-delm or FAY-del-um
Feth fiada – Fay FEE-da
Fomorian – Fo-MOR-ee-un
Fodbgen – FOVE-gen
Fragarach – FRAH-guh-rach*
Fuat – Foot (oo – as in “shoot”)
Geis – gaysh.
Genann – Ge-NAWN.
Inber Duglaise – IN-ver doog-LAYSH-ee
Inisfail – IN-is-fall
Iolladh – YO-lah
Lia Fail – LEE-a FALL.
Lugh – Loo
Luimneach – LOOM-nyach*
Macha – MAH-cha*
Mag Adair – MAHG uh-DARE
Mag Tuiread – MAHG TOO-reed
Medb – Mave
Morgana – mor-GAH-nuh
Morslogh – MOR-slogh
Niamh – Neev
Ogham – OH-um or OG-um
Oisin – o-SHEEN or u-SHEEN
Ollamh Folla – O-lav FOL-luh
Paracelsus — pair-uh-SELL-suss
Sengann – SHEN-gan
Sidhe – Shee
Tuatha De Danann – TOO-uh-huh de DAN-nawn
*ch indicates hard ch sound as in German ach.