by Ursula the Widow
Reviews Editor, Pennsic Independent
J. T. Sibley, aka spice merchant and beloved dinosaur Auntie Arwen, says her new book The Divine Thunderstorm: Missiles of the Gods is about the folklore surrounding the phenomena of thunder and lightning. That's not so much an outright lie as it is a drastic understatement.
The book, based on Sibley's dissertation but greatly expanded, does indeed address folk belief and myth surrounding thunderbolts, from the Ice Age to the 20th century and from Persia to America. However, like Sir James Frazier in The Golden Bough, Sibley treats her core myth as a point of departure and exploration.
The Divine Thunderbolt has the same relationship to Sibley's recent magico-historical novel, Hammer of the Smith, that the King James Bible has to the Chronicles of Narnia. For those who like their history straight up, here is the one-hundred-proof undiluted stuff.
Sibley investigates specifically and in detail thunderbolt beliefs and associated artwork, mythmaking and tales for a long list of Indo-European cultures. If you ever wondered what your persona thought about thunder, it's in here. While individual cultural beliefs are addressed, the connections between them are also made plain. The reader's sense of widespread shared understandings gradually grows until he or she can virtually see our ancestors, thousands of miles apart but all gazing with the same awe at the same sky.
The value of this work to SCA members, however, will not be limited to pure theory or persona development. The many figures and drawing that illustrate Sibley's intensive research will furnish a rich source imagery for the embroiderer, the goldsmith, and the scribe, while the substance of the volume could keep a clan of storytellers well fed for a lifetime. Linguists will enjoy her excursions into etymology; archers will speculate about the real wood of the arrow that slew Baldur.
Although writing here as a scholar rather than a storyteller, Sibley never drones or obfuscates. She simply tells it like it was in a refreshingly plain style.
Auntie Arwen's books are available at her spice shop, Booth XXX.