When I was three years old, my totem animals were given to me by a seer and wood carver of the Pacific Northwest. One of these is the whale, the animal that moves along the ocean floors collecting wisdom over the aeons, acting as a floating repository of clan totem memory. The other, his companion the far-seeing eagle, now sits on my desk, perched for a better view atop the whale's flipped-up tail. According to Robert Graves, these same two animals were the first companions of the goddess, Artemis, who herself plays an important part in The Magic Circle. Even if I'd known, as a child what the whale and the eagle symbolized, I couldn't have foreseen better friends for myself, all these years: one preserves the past and collective memory, the other sees the future.

My books are always so jam-packed with information that the question I'm most often asked is, How do I do my research? Another frequent request is for a bibliography of the books I've read in preparing the research for my novels. This makes it seem I'm some kind of scholar, which I'm not. I am an information junkie, devouring thousands of texts per year. But the most interesting information isn't always found in bibliographies and books. Life is the best preparation for the kind of stories I write. All it takes to learn new things is curiosity.

For those readers who are curious, I thought I'd provide a sort of selective sampling of the things I was curious about myself, that made me write The Magic Circle. So when you read the book you can see for yourself how some of the things I learned found their way into the story.

On Russia, Central Asia, the East:

Not long before my final Russian research trip, the Treasures of Schliemann's Troy had been found in boxes in a basement in Moscow and were on public display, at the Pushkin, for the first time since their disappearance from Berlin in WWII. To me, the most interesting were not the famous, fabulous gold tiaras and necklaces worn by Schliemann's wife in photos--but the many, many pitchers, vases and cornices depicting the Dionysian Mysteries, which were tucked away in the next room.

The second unearthing of these objects at the moment just before the New Aeon seemed to me a fitting symbol, in heralding the return of the water-bearer, Dionysus, "the god who is poured out."

On the growth of empire, British, Russian, and Chinese: Peter Hopkirk's swashbuckling books The Great Game, Foreign Devils on the Silk Road, Setting the East Ablaze, and more. Packed with intrigue, espionage, info, and gore.

On clash of cultures: Akiner: Islamic Peoples of the Soviet Union
Hostler: The Turks of Central Asia
Olcott: The Kazakhs
Grousset: Empire of the Steppes
Sinor: Cambridge History of Early Central Asia

Ceram: Secret of the Hittites

On history, mystery, and magic: Secret History of the Mongols, transl Cleves: wonderful, the Nibelungenlied of the Mongol peoples.

The Master and Margarita, Mikhail Bulgakov: the devil comes to Moscow in the 30s disguised as a magician and bedazzles an entire populance that doesn't believe in devils or in gods. Great fun and fascinating. Considered the Russian tour-de-force of the 20th century.

Akurgal: Ancient Civilizations and Ruins of Turkey, from the guy who explored most of them, including Gordion, home of K. Midas and Alexander's knot. With great technical drawings and maps. University of Ankara.

On the mystical front, Rene Guenon, Gurdjieff, and Aleister Crowley run the spectrum of esoteric-metaphysical-occult-black magic of the region, as well as the skills of the ashokh (G's father was one) who holds druid-like clan memory. I've read just about everything these three wrote, though Gurdjieff above all likes to obfuscate and make things seem more mysterious than they really are.

For those who are into mountain climbing, Crowley was also first to attempt an ascent of K2, Chogo-ri, one of the sacred geomantic power points of earth. His wonderful descriptions of the majesty, plus the physical brutality and team infighting, were echoed years later in Galen Rowell's expedition. Crowley's advice: fatten up, you'll burn it off, don't waste your breath on exercise, and dash up and back as fast as possible before the mountain gets you!

Nicholas Roerich, the esoteric Russian painter, went to Central Asia and became a lama. His earliest paintings, filled with Himalayan light, are in the astonishing Oriental Museum (aka Museum of East and West) in Moscow, and others at Roerich societies like the ones in NYC and St. Petersburg. Must be seen firsthand to experience inner glow. Also designed costumes and sets for Diaghilev, and under FDR created the Peace Pact, seed of the United Nations. Introduced the West to Agharthi and Shambhala; see his book.

On Nuclear Energy and Nuclear Weapons:

As readers of The Eight will recall, I worked in the energy field, including nuclear. Good books now available on historical perspective and current status of energy, weapons, and the role of the International Atomic Energy Agency are from Resources for the Future, Washington, DC, and from the Monterey Institute, which is also busy counting warheads and tracking the spread of materials.

G-77 information is available from the United Nations. The major question: if developing countries can't burn fossil fuels (global warming) and they also can't have nuclear energy (may lead to weapons)--then what can they have?

Everyone on earth, in this atomic age, should take the initiative to read the "Atoms for Peace" speech Dwight Eisenhower was invited by Dag Hammarskjold to give before the United Nations. An eleventh-hour message with a note of hope.

On Hitler, the Holocaust, and the Occult:

Unfortunately, you can't write a book about the aeon without mentioning Adolf Hitler. But there are many who can write from experience, and have written of the war and the Holocaust far better than I could. In The Magic Circle, however, I did want to pay tribute to those who are often overlooked or forgotten: the gypsies and others who were killed with no political-religious agenda, but only because they were "different." Fonseca's Bury Me Standing is highly recommended, with an excellent bibliography that will lead you to Leland, Borrow, and other early scholars of this fascinating culture that so influences the life of my protagonist, Ariel Behn.

Then too, almost everybody knows the occult-Nazi traffic that's so popular: Holy Blood, Holy Grail--by now practically a cottage industry in southern France; Spear of Destiny, Ravenscroft; Occult Roots of Nazism, Goodricke-Clarke; and the classic, Pauwels and Bergier's Morning of the Magicians.

Though I did feel compelled to be conversant with this stuff--as well as with Hitler's published writings and speeches, and the seven-foot wall I now possess of accepted, well-documented books by those like Toland, Shirer, Bullock, and Fest--forgive me if these works seemed to me often to dilute or even glamorize Hitler, making him out merely a symbol or a caricature, someone from another planet possessed by an inexplicable evil force, like Daarth Vader.

In the dizzying landslide barrage of Nazi rehash--even adulation--I recommend one book: Gitta Sereny's Albert Speer, His Battle With Truth. Sereny, who practically lived with Speer and family over the course of years and years, digs out and lays down an in-depth study of an enigmatic figure who was pivotal to the period, and without whose story it cannot be fully understood. It should be a blueprint for biographers.

Women, Mothers, Goddesses, the Shulamite:

The best books written on things female and matrilineal are, so far, still by men. Though they're rarely credited. Two of the best scholarly ones: The Mothers (3 volumes), Briffault, and Mother Right, Bachofen. Not to mention Robert Graves and Ashley Montague. The best collections of goddess art are located in central Turkey. The most gorgeous Black Virgins are in Slavic countries.

Mythology and Religion, Precession of the Equinoxes, and New Age blah-blah:

The great classic was: Hamlet's Mill, by de Santillana, a physicist, and von Dechend, a mythographer, who trace the world's oldest consistent myth through many cultures, link it to the world axis theory and explain the precession of constellations that fascinated the ancients. There's an abundance of other good scholarly books, like The Tree at the Navel of the World.

Go see the dervishes dance in the winter at Konya. They really get it.

--Katherine Neville

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