Phone Message Transcript: July 1, 1999
[appearing on Anne's fan phone line]
Message to Phone and the Web
A caller named Martha asked me about my travels, where have I been in the world, etc. This is an interesting question, I think for those who read my books because I do describe many, many different places.
Recently, I stood stock of my travels myself. I was reading a book on magic, THE RISE OF MAGIC IN EARLY MEDIEVAL EUROPE by Valerie I. J. Flint. And I was also reading on Candomble, the underground magical religion in Brazil, and also on Voodoo in Haiti. And I paused to realize that I had been to many centers of magic and religion, all these trips taking place in the last twenty years or so.
My first trip out of the country was to Haiti, to the city of Port au Prince, in 1976. I can not claim to have discovered any real Voodoo meetings there, but I got a wonderful taste of the country. I spent a lot of time on the porch of a hotel called the Grand Hotel Olafson, drinking Haitian beer, listening to the natives talk their French patois, and roaming around by day on foot or in a taxi cab looking at everything I could. I bought some Haitian paintings which were hanging in my house until recently.
In 1977, I took a grand tour of sorts which included going to Egypt, spending time in Cairo, wandering through the sheer wonders of the Cairo Museum, seeing the Pyramids of Giza, and the step pyramid, and then going up the Nile to the temple complex of Luxor and the Valley of the Kings. On this trip I also made my first visit to Rome and was actually there on Easter Sunday, with the crowds in front of St. Peter's when the Pope appeared to give his greetings in various different languages to the whole world.
On that same trip, I went to Athens, Greece and made a sight trip to Delphi where the famous Oracle held sway for hundreds of years in ancient times with her predictions. I was deeply moved by the beautiful countryside of Greece.
The same grand tour included a visit to Paris, and a side trip to the magnificent and mysterious Cathedral of Chartres which some say was built upon the site of a Druid center of worship.
In later years I went to England, and made a side trip out of London to Glastonbury, an extremely important place to those who are interested in Earth Magic, and the legends surrounding King Authur. I visited the place where a body had been exhumed centuries before, which was believed to be the body of Arthur, and I stood on one of the sacred hills which figures prominently in the myths of the place. I bathed my hands in the Sacred Well. On this same English trip, I also visited Stonehenge, the famous and mysterious circle of giant stones which has given rise to so much speculation about magic.
Years later, I went to Rio de Janeiro. I was there on New Years Eve at midnight when the locals were thousands strong along the beaches of Copacabana, everyone dressed in white, and people were putting flowers into the water in honor of the Candomble orisha, or goddess, Yemanja. Though I didn't actually see the water offering, the beach itself was a spectacle I shall never forget.
Just recently, about two years ago, I went to Jerusalem. I went to as many sacred places there as I could go. I made side trips to Nazareth, and to Bethlehem. I visited places where pilgrims have congregated since Christianity became the legal religion of the Holy Roman Empire centuries ago.
I have also returned to Italy, for an all time total of four different trips, always visiting Rome when I go. On my third trip there I went through the catacombs where the Christians had buried their dead.
What I see here when I look back, when I answer this caller's question about my travels, is that magical places and religious places entrance me. Places which figure in the great religions mean much to me, even if I do not share the beliefs of the pilgrims who go there. What impresses me is the sanctity conveyed on the place by the thousands upon thousands of believers who have trod the same path.
My travels have also included three visits to Florence, Italy, two to the town of Assisi, where St. Francis was born and where he built his famous Franciscan monastery. Once again, Assisi was a religious pilgrimage for me.
The more I study magic, the more I read Ms. Flint's marvelous and eloquent book, the more I am thankful that I made these various journeys, that I was able to stand for long moments and simply contemplate the environment of these important centers or shrines.
I do use all of this in my writing. Italy has figured very prominently in CRY TO HEAVEN and in VITTORIO, THE VAMPIRE, and in THE VAMPIRE ARMAND. My travel to France has also been very helpful and I use it when I write about Lestat directly. The trip to Glastonbury figured prominently in the novel TALTOS. Stonehenge figured prominently in the same book.
I tried to reinvoke the beauty of Haiti in THE QUEEN OF THE DAMNED.
The more I write, the more I will use what I have seen, and the more I will travel.
As my health is now completely improved, as I struggle rather pleasurably to catch up with my writing, I hope to be traveling soon again. My next destination will in all probability be exotic. India is a place that I want to see.
I also have not abandoned my plan to write the AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF JESUS CHRIST. I see my novel as analogous to the paintings which many artists have done of Christ, and I will no doubt go back to the Holy Land as we call it before I finish that book.
Thank you for calling. Leave me a message after the beep.
Tell me, if you will, what you think about graphic novels or comics. Do you ever read them? Do you think they can achieve high art?
As I have mentioned in the past, SICILIAN DRAGON, the new company started by my assistant Ross Tafaro, is doing TALE OF THE BODY THIEF, as a graphic novel, and I have total creative control along with Ross. I would love to hear your comments.
Over and out...I love you.