The word “angel” is believed to be derived from the Greek word αγγελος (angelos) which means messenger, but it is generally thought of as a description of the whole range of spirits created.
Whilst writing the first novel in my historical fiction series, Spirit of Lost Angels, I wanted to create some sort of connection across the generations – a good (or bad) luck charm; a talisman that would link the women of L’Auberge des Anges through time. I was looking for something by which the heroine could recall her ancestors.
My research led me to London’s Foundling Museum and the collection of trinkets and talismans that mothers often left with their foundlings – an object by which the grown-up child could identify her.
An angel pendant came to mind – a bone carving that might encompass the spirit of all those who had worn it before the heroine. It would act as a “messenger” of the strength and courage of her predecessors.
Throughout the first and second books of L’Auberge des Anges series, the reader (and I) learned that a woodcarver had carved this angel pendant for his wife many centuries ago. Nobody knew exactly when, or from what type of bone it was sculpted. Perhaps it was made from seal, ox or walrus tusk, or maybe even mammoth?
I am about to embark on the third novel in the series, which will explore the origins of this angel pendant, and how it was regarded as both a good luck charm and a curse, during the 14th century plague years.
Once I started writing about the pendant, other angel themes emerged in various forms. Firstly, the name of the family farm. In the poverty-stricken pre-French revolution years, the farmer and his wife turn their farm into an inn – L’Auberge des Anges (the Inn of Angels), naming it after their loved ones taken by famine, illness or accident.
Angels are evoked in professions. Many of the women of L’Auberge des Anges feature as the village midwife and healer-woman (la guérisseuse). But she is also an angel-maker, using her special herbs and teas to induce abortions.
Angels are reflected in the beliefs and superstitions of the 18th century villagers, who held witches responsible for bringing the storms that destroyed their crops and homes. The people attended Mass diligently, relying on their priest to ring the church bell long and hard to call on the angels to take the storm away.
When the Laki volcano erupted in Iceland in 1783 the villagers, and people right across the land, believed – amongst other theories – this occurred because they had enraged the angels.
Finally, in Spirit of Lost Angels, we encounter La Faucheuse – the angel of death.
References to angels arose, once again, in the second, as yet unpublished, book in the series – Wolfsangel. Firstly, in the insignia of Das Reich’s SS – a sideways Z with a vertical line through the middle. The wolf’s hook, or Wolfsangel. Another important angel also features in the story – the Good Friday angel.
When I began writing the series, I did not set out with the theme of angels in mind. They just seemed to fly in from all angles, and hover over me. It was as if they hankered to play roles in these stories, and I merely let them flutter across the pages as they wished.
For more information about Spirit of Lost Angels, or to read an excerpt please refer to Liza’s Website, Blog or Triskele Books.
Liza grew up in Wollongong, Australia, where she worked as a general nurse and midwife for fifteen years. She has been living in France for the past twenty years, where she works part-time as a French-English medical translator.
Since completing a creative writing course ten years ago, several of her short stories have won awards and been published widely in anthologies and small press magazines. Her articles on French culture and tradition have been published in international magazines such as France Magazine and France Today.
She has completed four novels and one short-story collection, and is represented by Judith Murdoch of the Judith Murdoch Literary Agency. Spirit of Lost Angels is the first in a historical series set against a backdrop of rural France, and was published under the Triskele Books label in June, 2012.