Florida’s conflict between natives, Huguenots, and Catholics was my first theme, due to my all encompassing ancestry. My first novel changed course as I did my research. In this second novel, the main character will be doing her own research, about the origins of the cult.Starting with the decision to time travel by use of magic mushroom; I leaped to the genetic memory drug used in Frank Herbert’s Dune, which, led me down the Bene Gesserit route. I already had a cult, in mind, but Dune’s witch cult routed me to my Feminist theme. A cult made from female tricksters—was the idea.
A movie, starring Michael Douglas, The Game, was one early inspiration. Using a trickster cult became the plan, but I kept finding more info on fertility cults, add the linguistic link between ‘Florida’ and Flora, the Roman fertility goddess. But I hesitated to waver from my trickster deity research.
The definitive moment, that brought me to my circus theme, came when I read Pedro Menendez brought a dwarf singer with him when he colonized Florida. Small deities, called the Karpoi, served Flora and they were similar to other small deities like Santa’s elves and Brownies. A search for the first small deities began. Egyptians worshiped the dwarf god, Ptah and the Pataikos (Phoenician borrowed) who I suspect links to the Hindu Prajapati. Hephaestus, the Greek god of smiths, also compares well to Ptah and the Pataikos. Aphrodite, the fertility goddess, married Hephaestus; thus, I have my beauty and the freak theme.
Serapis comes from a merger of Osiris and Apis, a bull deity and Apis is basically a reincarnation of Ptah; thus, Serapis equals Ptah and Osiris. Dis Pater, the underworld god of riches is equivalent to Serapis. Isis is wife to Serapis (Osiris-Ptah); Isis and Venus (Aphrodite) are the rose and Flora is the Flower. Shu, the grandfather of Osiris, is a wind deity like Favonius (Zephyrus) – Husband to Flora (Chloris). The temple of Flora resides next to the Circus Maximus. It is confusing, but it all relates.
To sum up the deities; you have a sexy fertility goddess, a castrated hunk, and a dwarf god. You see a version of these three characters in Tod Browning’s Freaks. Cleopatra, a trapeze artist, is an evil enchantress; Hercules, the strongman, gets castrated; Hans is the rich dwarf. Three other characters act as a more righteous counterbalance, Venus, the seal trainer; Phroso, the clown; and Frieda the female dwarf who eventually marries Hans. The rest of the cast is much freakier. My cast is much the same and the three deities act as guides to the past.
Florida was home to many of the Freaks cast. Gibsonton’s ‘freak history’ nudged me toward my circus theme. I planned to make an appendix out of my fictional cult member research, but I decided to turn the appendix into a prequel. One defining moment, in my fictional cult history, must relate to the movie—Freaks. Tod Browning happened to make an appearance in the D.W. Griffith movie, Intolerance: Love’s Struggle Throughout the Ages; which, shares themes used in my first novel. My main Character will probably watch both movies and she definitely rocks the cradle, a symbolic element in Intolerance.
I know many other defining moments in my cult’s history. Doris Wishman and Herschell Gordon Lewis movies will need to play a part. My main character has a bit of Wishman in her. Dolly from Harry Crews‘, ‘Naked in Garden Hills; is another model. The hard part is creating the early history of the cult in Florida, somewhere in the early 1800’s