All books are made from other books. I think Cormac McCarthy said that. In writing Land of Pleasure, I was inspired by three books, each about the occult. But what does the word ‘occult’ really mean?
In his book Early Mormonism and the Magic World View, the scholar D. Michael Quinn suggests that by occult we mean something “dealing in matters regarded as involving the action or influence of supernatural agencies, or the secret knowledge of them.”
That could mean magic or religion. Again, Quinn writes: “Both religion and magic involve supernatural supplication, supernatural coercion, intricate rituals, and efforts to understand the otherworldly and ineffable.”
Quinn’s ultimate point: it is not a slander on the Mormon faith to regard it has having grown out of the ‘magic worldview’ that permeated early America.
The four tenets of the magic worldview are, according to Quinn:
- All things have a soul.
- Words, signs, numbers, and objects are in themselves powerful.
- There are no accidents.
- It is emotionally satisfying and, above all, rational.
It is this magic worldview that fascinates me, and permeates Land of Pleasure.
The other two books that provided inspiration are the Leechcraft: Early English Charms, Plantlore, and Healing by Stephen Pollington and The Flash of the Spirit: African and Afro-American Art & Philosophy by Robert Farris Thompson. The first discusses the ‘lacnunga,’ or the old Anglo-Saxon ‘science’ of herb healing. The second is about African rituals, including the Kongo cosmogram, that survived being transplanted to America by slavery.
While I was writing this book I found myself getting sucked into the vortex of my own ‘magic worldview.’ I kept consulting mysticalinternet.com for gematria connections and thought it was a just fun game.
A game, indeed. Toward the end of the book, almost as an afterthought, I typed ‘Joseph’ and this equivalent came back: ‘Thorn.’
The hair on the back of my neck stood up. If you read the book you will discover that Joseph is the name of the strange man that Alma meets in the cemetery. He is the one who is accused in the disappearance of the young girl Lily. It may also be his transmuted soul that resides in the mangy hide of the hound called, you guessed it, Thorn.
There are no accidents….