Category Archives: Inspiration

Baobab, Pillars of the Earth

An ancient forest of baobab trees near Morondava, Madagascar. (Photograph by Ken Thorne, My Shot)

“In the Sondhwar area of Jhalawar district, the rural people call the baobab Mansapooram (one who fulfills expectations). After Praying for a boon, a supplicant ties a small stone to a sacred red tag (lachha), which is attached to the tree; it is removed after the request has been granted…”

— From G.E. Wickens’ The Baobabs: Pachycauls of Africa, Madagascar and Australia

Hi there! I’ve been quiet a while, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been busy. Well, maybe I haven’t been very busy either. Summer’s been hot and the apartment has followed suit; plus work’s been doing a great job at sucking the creative energy out of me.

Today’s inspiration sprouted from the picture first, which was included in National Geographic’s 24th Annual Photo Contest. The image of the giant trees looming over a shadowed child in the golden hues and gray-blue mists of morning certainly tells the beginning of a great many stories on its own, but research always seems to plant more seeds, so to speak. Digging a little deeper revealed the trees to be firmly rooted in a great many cultural beliefs and practices. They are believed to grant wishes and offer healing magics, sometimes requiring strings tied around their wide trunks or amulets in the shapes of the broken bones they’re hoped to mend, other times requiring sacrifice. Some show reverence for the trees by cutting symbols into their bark.

I’m not currently working in a fictional universe that includes any kind of object worship, but this certainly makes me want to! Do you have a story with a tree of life? A tree of death? A stone that bleeds? Speak up!

“An ovoo (Mongolian: овоо, heap) is a type of shamanistic cairn found in Mongolia, usually made from rocks or from wood. Ovoos are often found at the top of mountains and in high places, like mountain passes. They serve mainly as religious sites, used in worship of the mountains and the sky as well as in Buddhist ceremonies, but often are also landmarks.” -Wikipedia

I found my way to the ovoo after reading some pretty inspiringly wacky talk about “Egyptian Texts,” which offer some…alternative suggestions as to how the pyramids were built. Basically, these super zen Egyptians with a knack for “second sight” through a third eye could use telekinesis. So yeah, that’s the pyramids, stonehenge, machu picchu…

This upsets me. Why discount our ancient ancestors’ intelligence and brute/”zerg” strength? Yeah, okay, they hadn’t climbed the ladder of civilization as high as we’re at today, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t have the same capacity to think as we do. Baby’s play with blocks. Human civilizations in their infancy played with huge blocks.

Anyway, this led me to cairns, which are slightly smaller collections of blocks laid out in slightly less precise fashion (generally a pile, but often stacked very intricately). Cairns are neat, and serve a multitude of purposes from waypoints/landmarks to help a traveler find their way, to places of religious ceremony/worship, to mass graves…and I’m sure there’s more. Pretty cool.

I’m currently writing a scene about a pair of four year old Gods who are forced on a rite of passage long before they’re ready for it. A cairn of some kind will make an appearance.