Seven Days in New Crete

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Seven Days in New Crete
Seven Days in New Crete Cover.jpg
First edition
Author Robert Graves
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Publisher Cassell
Pages 281

Seven Days in New Crete, also known as Watch the North Wind Rise, is a seminal future-utopian speculative fiction novel by Robert Graves, first published in 1949. It shares many themes and ideas with Graves' The White Goddess , published a year earlier.

Robert Graves English poet and novelist

Robert von Ranke Graves, known as Robert Graves, was a British poet, historical novelist, critic, and classicist. His father was Alfred Perceval Graves, a celebrated Irish poet and figure in the Gaelic revival; they were both Celticists and students of Irish mythology. Graves produced more than 140 works. Graves's poems—together with his translations and innovative analysis and interpretations of the Greek myths; his memoir of his early life, including his role in World War I, Good-Bye to All That; and his speculative study of poetic inspiration, The White Goddess—have never been out of print.

<i>The White Goddess</i> book by Robert Graves

The White Goddess: a Historical Grammar of Poetic Myth is a book-length essay on the nature of poetic myth-making by author and poet Robert Graves. First published in 1948, the book is based on earlier articles published in Wales magazine, corrected, revised and enlarged editions appeared in 1948, 1952 and 1961. The White Goddess represents an approach to the study of mythology from a decidedly creative and idiosyncratic perspective. Graves proposes the existence of a European deity, the "White Goddess of Birth, Love and Death", much similar to the Mother Goddess, inspired and represented by the phases of the moon, who lies behind the faces of the diverse goddesses of various European and pagan mythologies.



The novel takes place in a future society (first established on the island of Crete, but later spreading through much of the world) in which most post-medieval technology has been rejected, and a Triple Goddess religion is followed. The book is narrated by a mid-20th century poet, Edward Venn-Thomas, who is transported forward in time by the New Cretans. Society is organised into five "estates" or social groups: captains, recorders (scribes), commons (by far the most numerous), servants, and magicians or poets (the least numerous), which are analogised to the five fingers of a hand. [1] Different villages practice different marriage customs (strict monogamy, non-strict monogamy, or polyandry), worship different local "godlings", and specialise in various local handcrafts and foodstuffs, but share the common values of the New Cretan civilisation and devotion to the Goddess.

Crete The largest and most populous of the Greek islands

Crete is the largest and most populous of the Greek islands, the 88th largest island in the world and the fifth largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, after Sicily, Sardinia, Cyprus, and Corsica. Crete and a number of surrounding islands and islets constitute the region of Crete, one of the 13 top-level administrative units of Greece. The capital and the largest city is Heraklion. As of 2011, the region had a population of 623,065.

The Triple Goddess has been adopted by many neopagans as one of their primary deities. In common Neopagan usage the three female figures are frequently described as the Maiden, the Mother, and the Crone, each of which symbolizes both a separate stage in the female life cycle and a phase of the Moon, and often rules one of the realms of earth, underworld, and the heavens. These may or may not be perceived as aspects of a greater single divinity. The Goddess of Wicca's duotheistic theology is sometimes portrayed as the Triple Goddess, her masculine consort being the Horned God.

Estates of the realm broad social orders of the hierarchically conceived society recognised in the Middle Ages and Early Modern period in Christian Europe

The estates of the realm, or three estates, were the broad orders of social hierarchy used in Christendom from the medieval period to early modern Europe. Different systems for dividing society members into estates developed and evolved over time.

Some of the social customs are somewhat matriarchal. There is no poverty in New Crete (money has been abolished) and little dissatisfaction. War is only known in the form of controlled local one-day conflicts between neighbouring villages, similar to the old game of village football or Shrovetide football. The poets or magicians of New Crete are an integral part of a religion centred on a sometimes capricious Goddess worshipped in three aspects: the maiden archer Nimuë, the goddess of motherhood and sexuality Mari, and the hag-goddess of wisdom Ana. (The names of the last two are similar to those of the Virgin Mary and her mother Saint Anne in Christianity.)

Matriarchy Social system in which females hold primary power and predominate in roles of political leadership, moral authority, social privilege and control

Matriarchy is a social system in which females hold the primary power positions in roles of political leadership, moral authority, social privilege and control of property at the specific exclusion of males — at least to a large degree.

Saint Anne mother of Virgin Mary in Christian and Islamic traditions; unnamed in the New Testament or Quran

According to apocryphal Christian and Islamic tradition, Saint Anne, of David's house and line, was the mother of Mary and grandmother of Jesus. Mary's mother is not named in the canonical gospels, but is mentioned as the daughter of Faqud in Quran. In writing, Anne's name and that of her husband Joachim come only from New Testament apocrypha, of which the Gospel of James seems to be the earliest that mentions them.

The only masculine elements of New Cretan religion are the rival twin demi-gods (the star-god of the first half of the year and the serpent-god of the second half of the year) who compete for the Goddess's favour, and the local village godlings, who are all far below the Goddess as Queen of Heaven. However, the failings of past fallen civilisations are remembered and personified as an anti-trinity of evil gods (the "three Rogues"): Dobeis, god of money and greed; Pill, god of theft and violence; and Machna, god of science and soulless machinery.

The Holly King is a speculative archetype of modern studies of folklore and mythology which has been popularized in some Neopagan religions. In his book The White Goddess, the author Robert Graves proposed that the mythological figure of the Holly King represents one half of the year, while the other is personified by his counterpart and adversary the Oak King: the two battle endlessly as the seasons turn. At Midsummer the Oak King is at the height of his strength, while the Holly King is at his weakest. The Holly King begins to regain his power, and at the Autumn Equinox, the tables finally turn in the Holly King's favor; his strength peaks at Midwinter. Graves identified a number of paired hero-figures which he believes are variants of this myth, including Lleu Llaw Gyffes and Gronw Pebr, Gwyn and Gwythr, Lugh and Balor, Balan and Balin, Gawain and the Green Knight, the robin and the wren, and even Jesus and John the Baptist.

The New Cretan language is derived from Catalan, modified by heavy English-language influence and apparent minor Slavic and Celtic influences. The writing down of words is considered to be too sacred an act to be profaned by ordinary every-day uses, and paper is banned in New Cretan society, [2] and only members of the scribal estate and the poet-magician estate are commonly literate. However, numerical tally-marks are allowed to be used for everyday purposes, and many people of other estates learn to read in later life, after they retire into elder status, and some of the ordinary taboos of New Cretan life are relaxed when in the presence of other elders.

Catalan language Romance language

Catalan is a Western Romance language derived from Vulgar Latin and named after the medieval Principality of Catalonia, in northeastern modern Spain. It is the only official language of Andorra, and a co-official language of the Spanish autonomous communities of Catalonia, the Balearic Islands and Valencia. It also has semi-official status in the Italian commune of Alghero. It is also spoken in the eastern strip of Aragon, in some villages of Region of Murcia called Carche and in the Pyrénées-Orientales department of France. These territories are often called Països Catalans or "Catalan Countries".

Though Venn-Thomas has been moved in time, he is still in the same area of southern France where he lived before and after World War II, and he compares the conditions in his own time to those under the New Cretan civilisation (mostly to the disfavor of the 20th century, though some things seem "too good to be true").

World War II 1939–1945 global war

World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from over 30 countries. The major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 50 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, and the only use of nuclear weapons in war.

In this apparently idyllic utopian setting, Venn-Thomas begins to realise that he has been chosen by the Goddess to inject disruption into a society that is becoming static and in danger of losing its vitality. A symptom of trouble is that over the course of the week described in the novel, the five poet-magicians of the "Magic House" of the village of Horned Lamb all die or lose their status as members of the poet-magician estate.

In the last section of the book, Venn-Thomas makes a trip to Dunrena, the town which is the capital of the local kingdom, to witness the twice-yearly ceremony of the changing of the king, carried out as a solemn religious-theatrical performance culminating in a ritual sacrifice similar to those described in The Golden Bough . At the end of the book, Venn-Thomas unleashes the whirlwind which will prepare the way for the transition to the next phase of history, and Sapphire (a young woman for whom he has had unsettled feelings) returns with him through time to be reborn as his daughter.

Similar works

Poul Anderson's 1965 novel The Corridors of Time shares many themes with Graves' book, also including a depiction of a future matriarchal world dominated by a Great Goddess religion seen through the eyes of a traveller from our time. However, Anderson's version of such a world is far more harsh and dystopian, leading the plot to a conclusion very different from Graves'.

See also

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  1. Yesterday's Tomorrows: A Historical Survey of Future Societies by W.H.G. Armytage (1968), p. 128
  2. Yesterday's Tomorrows: A Historical Survey of Future Societies by W.H.G. Armytage (1968), p. 126