Her official title is Queen of the Grey Ravens or more simply, the Grey Queen and while she accepts the title, Morganna still raises an elegantly sculptured eyebrow when I address her by her full title.
Morganna: It’s Morganna if we’re talking vampire business and Melanie Nolan to the outside world. The title does imply power and authority, I admit that but power comes from the clan I serve. I suppose servant queen might be a more palatable title but I prefer Morganna.
What do you mean by serving your people?
Morganna: It’s both literal and figurative. With some fifteen hundred members and three times that amount of mortal members it’s obviously impossible to attend to each and every member but wherever I go I’m in contact with members. I listen to their concerns and try my best to implement changes where I can see it’s going to benefit the clan. Leadership is very much about leading by consensus and popular opinion.
So it’s democratic?
Morganna: Very much so. I was a great admirer of the early Greek democracy, the Romans did borrow it but then meshed it with the concept of the god kings of Egypt. They were very much enamoured by the culture of Egypt, they sensed it was far far older than their civilisation and incorporated that into their society. Ultimately though it was a flawed arrangement because men are fickle creatures and when a god king makes too many mistakes he too can be killed. When Julius set himself up as a dictator he was drawing on the idea of the Egyptian god kings and when he was assassinated he discovered to his shock perhaps that god kings are still mortal.
You were there when he was murdered I believe?
Morganna: Not in the building at the time. We were in the market when word came that the Senators had attacked Caesar. The messenger had come with a message from the Senate for Amalthea, inviting her to witness the passing of the dictator. We had a loose affiliation with the Vestal Virgins and none of them would set foot in the Senate lest they be defiled. Amalthea took me and six other women to the Senate building. Julius was propped against a column and covered in blood, they’d stabbed him a couple of dozen times and he’d lost so much blood I doubt he was capable of speaking. She knelt at his side and dipped her finger into a puncture wound and tasted his blood. She told him that even his blood was poison and proclaimed that the dead would follow him into the afterlife to condemn him. After that she stepped away from the body and a slave was ordered to finish him off. The Gaul drove a dagger through his heart and then he in turn was forced to kneel while a guard slit his throat. It sounds bizarre when you hear it but none of these senators wanted to have his death on their hands although their hands were stained with his blood.
How did you feel at the time?
Morganna: To be blunt I thought it was a rather messy death, they’d stabbed him twenty three times but although they’d punctured vital organs he was still breathing but incapable of fighting back. I thought at the time they had simply overreacted to his autocratic rule but when they saw the results of their actions they were afraid. Getting a slave to finish the task was one way of getting the job done without soiling their hands. Julius was a dictator, the general who crossed the Rubicon and invaded his own capital before setting himself up as emperor, one blessed by the gods so it was said. He was popular with the common folk however so when the conspirators announced his death to the commoners they were met with silence. Amalthea took us out of the city that night and we went north to Germania.
Was he a good man or a bad man?
Morganna: (laughs) he had his good points and from what I witnessed he had people’s best interests at heart but deciding to dispense with the Senate altogether and rule in his own right was a step too far and it’s a lesson in the fatality of hubris. I’ve seen the end of Julius replayed thousands and thousands of times in different ways, not always violent or fatal. To reinterpret his ending in modern terminology, Julius believed his own hype and paid the ultimate price for it. One must remember that the cheering crowds today may very well be calling for your death tomorrow and I’ve seen that many a time. In hindsight I admit I’ve learned a lot from his death. Power is something to be shared equally not held to your breast. Julius was like many others who came after him, he thought he was the fount of all knowledge. I’ve seen thousands of Caesars over the last two thousand years, some faded into obscurity and others died violently but all passed from sight.
Is there something our leaders can learn from Julius Caesar?
Morganna: Don’t go to the Senate on the fifteenth of March? I think one rather obvious lesson is that power is seductive. If a big industrialist or a general funds your campaign or works to put you into power then it is not yours to keep, you’ve been given the freedom to exercise that power but that can be taken away if you threaten their interests. These days in American politics you’ve got presidential candidates courting Wall Street and the military industrial complex, big energy companies and wealthy donors in an attempt to raise their profile. It does work but once you step into the Oval office you’re then their man and they want a return on their investment and you can’t blame Wall Street for wanting to control the government. They’re only working to protect their vested interests, it’s human nature. A populist president is ultimately more dangerous and those same powerful men and organisations will try to depose him. Kennedy upset a lot of very powerful individuals during his short lived presidency and paid the ultimate price. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely and I’m not the first one to say it. Personally I’ve always made it clear that my people are the power behind the throne. This title of queen is only a title, without the common consent of my people it’s just a paper crown, it means nothing. I never want to get to the stage where I have people bowing and scraping to me. When your halo slips, grow horns.
And yet there are many out there who aim for that very thing, to be famous.
Morganna: It’s a symptom in the modern age of our search for God. I’ve seen the celebrity actors and sportsmen surrounded by their sycophants and see an echo of the old pagan cults. There were thousands of them in the ancient world, all claiming a monopoly on the truth. With Twitter, Facebook and other forms of social media we see ordinary mortals who’ve never achieved even a modicum of greatness believing that everything that falls from their lips is a pearl of wisdom. I, who have lived nearly twenty five centuries can guarantee that not everything I said was noble or worth remembering. The celebrity cult has taken hold because reality television shows glorify ordinary people for the most mundane activities and achievements like eating grubs in the Australian jungle. The viewers buy into the accolades and try to emulate their heroes which is kind of sad because many of them are intelligent people who could perhaps with a little time and effort create something worthwhile like a book, a work of art or a new medical cure. Instead they’re snapping photos of themselves doing mundane things in the hope of achieving immortality.
I read somewhere recently that it’s a symptom of humanity’s desire for recognition, to be noticed by somebody even if it’s for something silly and mundane.
Morganna: I haven’t heard it put quite like that but you’ve got a good point. Thoreau said that most men lead lives of quiet desperation and we hold in our hands a tool that can broadcast our face onto millions of phones, tablets and computers all over the world. I’ve never felt the urge to take selfies and post my ramblings online. I’m quite happy doing what I do nowadays.
You’ve seen two and a half millennia of history and human development. What era or decade stands out as being your favourite?
Morganna: It’s hard to pick one because every age had both good and bad aspects to it. I think the worst times were plague years because so many died and there was no logical explanation. People turned to God and then the old gods, but inevitably the church seized upon the terrible loss of life as being God’s punishment for not adhering closely enough to his teachings. With that of course came the witch hunts and the Inquisitions. Places like Spain, Scotland and Germany were no go areas for many years, I took all my people far into the east to get away from Europe. Thousands died simply to satisfy the blood lust of the mob and through it all the church did nothing to stop it. The best age I would say is this one in spite of the many problems we’ve got. The separation of church and state was one of the greatest achievements of the West because it allowed society the chance to breathe and experiment. With that of course came the many innovations we take for granted today, electricity, the telephone, flight, space exploration, the great advances in medicine were all driven by a need to explore without being held back by church dogma.
You don’t have much respect for the church do you?
Morganna: Well that stands to reason. I was there when the myths about Christ began to circulate in the market places and taverns. I met Jesus once and thought him to be a good and noble man but he was not the son of a god, not even a distant relative. He was a mortal man who dreamed of a united Israel that incorporated Jews and Gentiles, men and women, slaves and free. That was the heresy for which he was condemned because he was a self proclaimed Son of Man. The first time I had an argument about his divine birthright was in Alexandria at the great library. There were Greeks who’d been disciples of Saul of Tarsus. He’d been executed in Rome a few years previously and these Greeks were saying that Christ was the Son of God. I argued with them for a good couple of hours but not even logic could sway their blindness. The general belief was that Christ would return very shortly, like in a few years time to bring an end to the world of man and usher in the kingdom of heaven. It wasn’t the first time I’d heard the prophecy but towards the end of the century it became more and more common. There was a need to put the stamp of authenticity on the Christian cult because it was competing with much older cults and traditions. Christianity was the new kid on the block that claimed ancestry from a man who’d been crucified. It was a novel enough idea at the time when you consider that crucifixion was a shameful death. Over the next century and a half I saw more and more Christians accepting this myth that Jesus had risen from death. It was borrowed from the cult of Mithra and the Egyptian god, Osiris. Mithra was the soldier’s god and worshipped all over the empire by soldiers. Just about every so called Christian tradition or story was borrowed or bastardised from other pagan stories, at the time it was actually quite laughable.
I’ve heard that Christianity borrowed from other religions before.
Morganna: Of course it did. You have to realise that when for example, a Celt met a Greek and they discussed religion, the two would compare gods and goddesses to find common ground. It was very common to hear them say, “oh we call the god of the sea Llyr,” and the Greek would say, “we call him Poseidon,” and they would exchange stories of Llyr and Poseidon. The Christians of course had no god, just a crucified man and so to cut to the chase they needed a divine being. Thus borrowing the idea of the god who was sacrificed and rose again on the third day made sense to them. In time of course it became the standard narrative but even up until the Council of Nicaea it wasn’t accepted by all Christians. I’ve said before that Christianity was the greatest fraud ever pulled on mankind. Their religion is like an onion, you peel back the layers to get to the truth but find nothing at the centre, at its most basic level it was propaganda. Repeat a lie often enough and it becomes truth but for centuries they were regarded as nutters, a fringe cult.
So was Christianity a good thing or a bad thing?
Morganna: It kept the power centred on Rome even after it was sacked. Christianity by the time of Constantine was a major force because Christians took anyone into their fold. They borrowed the concept of Roman citizenship and modified it. Go through baptism and become a citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven. Rome was bankrupt, morally and financially, the Goths were manoeuvring into position, the Parthians were a constant thorn in their eastern flank and the Irish and Pictish Celts had never been conquered. Rome was imploding and Christianity united the empire but ultimately it couldn’t stave off the inevitable collapse. As to whether it was a bad or good thing, I can only say there were individual Christians I liked and protected but as a religion I could never take it seriously. When it was joined with political power it became even more corrupted, which led directly to the Burning Years and the suppression of intellectual and scientific thought. The most perplexing problem for scientific minds in the Middle ages was working out how many angels could dance on the head of a pin. Christianity and science, such as it was back then were definitely at odds with each other and the church had the upper hand.
And yet we’re seeing a great deal of that debate in the mainstream press particularly in America at the moment.
Morganna: That’s because the church is losing believers at an astronomical rate. Science has become the new god, the invisible being we bow down to and any religion or culture that is in decline will become more extreme in an attempt to bring back the good old days. The Ghost Dancers in America were a recent example of a people whose culture had been decimated by the white invaders. The other thing that drives the extremism is the widening gap between rich and poor and the very real feeling that no matter which way you vote you’re going to be screwed. Millions demonstrated against the Iraq war before the troops went in but the government chose to ignore the voters and send in the troops. When you have that kind of smug arrogance ignoring the majority or writing them off as fringe lunatics then people will naturally look around for other leaders and that’s fertile ground for nutters to take centre stage. People see the unholy marriage of politics and big business and feel cut off from their leaders who’ve become very much like the god kings of Egypt and the Caesars of Rome.
What’s your view on the war on terror?
Morganna: First of all I’d call it a war of terror. How can you declare war on a military tactic? It’s absurdity to the extreme, a soundbite trotted out by Fox News and CNN over and over to please their masters in Washington. America and its allies in the West have been funding extremist groups in the Middle East for decades, setting up client regimes that will benefit their business interests. I’ve spent a lot of time in the Middle East over the last two thousand or so years. They were always far more advanced than Western kingdoms. Al Queda was a Western backed group of freedom fighters who are now terrorists after nine eleven. Saddam Hussein was Washington’s man and the Taliban had funding from the CIA but when they decided to do their own thing or should I say disobey the west they paid the price. The Zionists in Israel are a powder keg in the middle of a furnace. Israel possesses the most terrifying arsenal of all, and believe me they’re not above using it to start a war. The American government needs to get out of the Middle East and stop meddling in things they know nothing about, they’re so busy trying to please Israel and buy off Israel’s enemies that all credibility is completely lost. It will take two generations at least to shake off the stain of American and British influence.
Morganna: What do you want me to say? That we should let our diplomats sort it all out? The IDF routinely goes into the Gaza Strip to slaughter hundreds and thousands of civilians. Our White House slaps them on the wrist and then signs over billions of dollars worth of arms shipments to Israel. Our aid package to the IDF is about three billion dollars every year. You can’t then go to the Palestinians and say let us help you when you’re providing arms to their enemies to obliterate their villages and towns. It’s sanctimonious bullshit and downright insulting. We’ve got no business even being there. Even when the Palestinians try to go down a peaceful route and join the UN they get blocked by the Americans, who are only doing the bidding of their masters in Tel Aviv. America has done enormous damage in the Middle East by siding with what is basically a colonial apartheid state. Seriously Israel is a cancerous growth that needs to be excised and left to go it alone. American foreign policy in the Middle East is just a train wreck of staggering proportions. Then you have these obsequious little weasels on the news programs asking, “why do they hate us?” Are you out of your fucking mind? If someone betrayed you like that you’d want them dead as well! American foreign policy is like an albatross flying in ever decreasing circles until it swallows its own ass, and the sooner the better if we’re to have a shot at finding world peace.
Getting away from the Middle East problem, is there any hope for the world?
Morganna: Not in the short term, no. You’ve got China, Russia, America and the EU all trying to gain the upper hand. There are just too many fat cats who have written checks for money they haven’t banked yet. These parasites will do anything to hold onto their money. I’ve always seen capitalism as a failed system, an abnormality that would flounder. In the long term though I would foresee that eventually common sense must prevail. We cannot keep on breeding and using up non renewable resources without disastrous consequences. We can’t keep on creating fictional money for people to borrow at extortionate interest rates without collapsing the financial system from the inside out. We need a system of social democracy that provides for the poor and less well of but also rewards those who can get ahead. Ultimately we need to look at ways of surviving on other planets because I don’t think this planet can sustain the growth rate of humans.
Do you think that’s at all possible?
Morganna: A hundred and thirty four years ago, Edison applied for a patent for an electric light globe. Since then we’ve built planes, spaceships, computers, X Ray machines and pacemakers. If you were to go back in time and tell Edison all about our inventions he would think you a crackpot or a starry eyed dreamer. Technology has revolutionised human existence and while it may yet destroy us, I have hopes that saner minds will prevail. The strongest drive of humanity is not sex nor power, it’s survival of the species. Even a condemned man stumbles on his way to the gallows because he still wants to live and collectively as a nation or a family of nations we will be forced to work together to save the planet, and if that entails spreading the wealth around so that more may survive then people may very well surprise you.
Do you see a role for vampires in the future?
Morganna: I do see a role for vampires in the future, certainly.
What as? Rulers or allies?
Morganna: I would defer to the latter. Humans don’t like to be ruled by another species and while we are mortal, we are also very different. As I mentioned earlier, power corrupts and if we were to become the new rulers of the world I’m afraid we might give into temptation and start abusing our position of trust. As allies however I think that is what we are best suited to, advising people in power about the options. We’ve seen much of history and there is nothing new under the sun, so perhaps in that capacity we could be useful.
I’d like to thank you for taking the time to answer my questions.
Morganna: It’s been a pleasure!
In the next part of my interview with Morganna we will find out more about her life as the captain of numerous trading vessels over the last two millennia.
When my stepmom’s plane went down a part of me died, Cat was my world. In her place she left us to her friends, the Grey Ravens. Over the years I slowly came to realise her death was a mere facade. When we were reunited I learned the truth about Clan Grey Raven and her remarkable history. Some people will always love. Some people never lose hope. Some people never die…