13 November 2014

Excerpt Thursday: ENCHANTRESS - A NOVEL OF RAV HISDA'S DAUGHTER by Maggie Anton

This week, we're pleased to welcome author Maggie Anton with her latest release,  ENCHANTRESS -  A NOVEL OF RAV HISDA'S DAUGHTER, part of her award-wining series of novels. Join us again on Sunday for an author interview, with more details about the story behind the story. One lucky visitor will get a free copy of Enchantress. Be sure to leave your email address in the comments of today's post or Sunday's author interview for a chance to win. Winner(s) are contacted privately by email. Here's the blurb.

Fantastic tales of demons and the Evil Eye, magical incantations, and powerful attractions abound in Enchantress, a novel that weaves together Talmudic lore, ancient Jewish magic, and a timeless love story set in fourth-century Babylonia. The author of the acclaimed Rashi’s Daughters series and the award-winning Rav Hisda’s Daughter: Apprentice has conjured literary magic in the land where “abracadabra” originated. Based on five years of research and populated with characters from the Talmud, Enchantress brings a pivotal era of Jewish and Christian history to life from the perspective of a courageous and passionate woman.

Praise for Enchantress


"A lushly detailed look into a fascinating unknown time and culture ... and a most engaging heroine." -- Diane Gabaldon



**An Excerpt from Enchantress**


I turned to my teacher Em. “Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael are the angels I invoke against the evil dream demons. Do you think it would help if I inscribe Issi’s kasa d’charasha [incantation bowls] during the second and third hours tomorrow?” Raphael ruled the second hour that day and Gabriel ruled the third.
“I don’t see how it could hurt. Then you could install the incantation bowls between the third and fourth hours on First Day.”
I nodded. The hours were earlier than I would have liked, but they were also ruled by Raphael and Gabriel. There was one thing that worried me. This would be the first bowl I’d done in four years, since going to Eretz Israel. Would the angels still answer me after all that time? Would the demons flee when I expelled them?
The next day I was up before dawn, and when the second hour began, I already had four small pottery vessels of similar size set up, in the garden, on a table that got good morning light. I unpacked my quills and ink, and set to work. Luckily the incantation against the demons and evil spirits that brought bad dreams was a short one.
I picked up the first cup and started writing at the top inside edge. “Sealed and doubly sealed are the house and threshold of Issi bar Aspenaz from the demons, devs, satans, ruchim, and evil liliths that appear during the night and during the day and appear to Issi bar Aspenaz when he sleeps. Sealed with three signet rings and doubly sealed with seven seals in the names of Gabriel, Michael and Raphael. Amen, amen, amen. Selah. Hallelujah.”
Though the kasa d’charasha was small, I had room at the bottom to draw a demonic figure, its arms and legs bound by chains. I repeated the inscription and drawing on the second cup and the third. By the time I finished the final vessel, I had acquired an audience.
Slaves paused briefly from their wheat grinding to watch me work, and Babata stopped by on her way to the privy, but most persistent was Abaye’s daughter, Elisheva.
Her eyes widened when I explained what I was doing, but then her face fell. “I wish I could read and write, but Father doesn’t have time to teach me, and Mother doesn’t know how.”
“A rabbi’s daughter should be literate,” I complained to Em later. “Can’t Abaye hire a tutor for her?”
“It wouldn’t be proper for a man to be alone with her to teach her,” she replied. “If Babata has a boy, Elisheva will be able to learn along with her brother. That’s how I learned.”
And if Babata had a girl, both sisters would be illiterate.
I was greatly relieved to wake up on First Day and find that I had not yet begun to bleed. That relief faded when not only Em but also Rava and Abaye prepared to accompany me to observe the installation.
I was used to installing kasa d’charasha before groups of strangers in Sura. But since few bowls were used here, I’d expected only a small number of spectators. Obviously the word had gone out about this new charasha procedure, because the entire neighborhood was waiting for me, blocking the gate.
Before I could say anything, Rava, in his most commanding voice, announced, “Everyone must stay well away, to avoid danger from fleeing demons.”
A space opened for us to walk through, but he had to repeat his warning several times before most people had retreated to the safety of their homes or the courtyard’s periphery. That was when I saw her, the woman on the boat who’d cast that spell to control the wind. She had managed to find a place near the gate, with a good view of the house. Something made me look away rather than give her a friendly nod.
Once Aspenaz showed me where Issi slept, I directed Leuton and Em’s slave  to dig the shallow holes. As each was finished, I encouraged Issi to watch as I turned one of the cups upside down, placed it at the bottom, and covered it with dirt. After the final hole was filled, I donned my charasheta’s white linen robe and veil.
As I’d done many times before, I closed my eyes and banished all thoughts of my human audience. Then I stood tall, lifted my arms, and prayed that the angels would hear and grant my request. My skin began to tingle, and when I looked down, the slaves were huddled at my feet.
The time had come to recite the incantation.
At my first installation, back in Sura seven years before, I had been astonished by the vigor and authority that had issued from my throat when I’d addressed the unseen world. Now I felt more relieved than surprised by my dominion, as the cowed demons fled before me and the angels I’d summoned.
As the incantation drew to a close, my strength slipped away. Yet my voice did not weaken as I concluded, “Amen, amen. Selah. Hallelujah.”
Fighting the urge to look for the unknown sorceress, I kept my eyes on Issi while the slaves helped me out of my white clothes. Loud enough that he could hear, I told Isaac, “Be sure that you and the boy recite both the Hashkivenu and Shir shel Negaim before he goes to sleep from now on.”
Isaac nodded reverently and led me to the place of honor at a large dining table. Gradually, wary neighbors came out to join us for the early midday meal. I searched for the woman from the boat, but she was gone.




Learn more about author Maggie Anton and her series:

Author website = www.maggieanton.com  
Author blog = http://www.rashisdaughters.com/blog/#.VGBfTfTF_og  
Twitter @MagiAnton  
Facebook = https://www.facebook.com/Maggie.Anton?ref=tn_tnmn 
Amazon page = http://www.amazon.com/Maggie-Anton/e/B001JSDKHM/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1415892226&sr=8-1 
Goodreads = https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/20821076-enchantress

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