Nowadays, few people credit that either magic or miracles can happen, not now and maybe not in the past, though we have all had the experience of movement at the corner of our vision that alarms us. When it turns out to be a shadow on the wall or a leaf tossed in the wind, we reason away our irrational alarm. But my heroine, Sofia, lived in a world saturated with belief in both magic and miracles, where a shadow or a leaf might be the guise of something much more sinister, where a bishop’s curse can kill a king and a witch can destroy her enemy slowly. People armed themselves and even their horses and oxen with charms, amulets and bells. And of course they also wore crucifixes or made the sign of the cross to ward off evil.
Medieval literature abounds in people seeing devils or angels. Sofia’s story is set in the thirteenth century, but over a hundred years later, Margery Kempe, who wrote the first autobiography in the English language, saw both and wrote about them with great enthusiasm. Martin Luther was tortured by devils from early childhood and is said to have thrown an inkpot at the Devil (perhaps metaphorically).
And lots of small children have invisible playmates—I did, and they formed the basis of Sofia’s. One of my playmates had a bird bill for a mouth, so imagine my surprise when I discovered there was/is a Slavic house spirit, Kikimora, with a bird bill for a mouth! Magic? Miracle? Coincidence? When Sofia’s small daughter sees the same spirits, it may be stretching believability in our modern age, but it would have seemed completely natural to Sofia.
So when mysterious events occur in my trilogy, The Tiger and the Dove, I don’t try to exaggerate or dismiss them. They are woven into the fabric of life: in The Grip of God, Sofia loses a dear friend to witchcraft; in Solomon’s Bride, she accepts that her daughter can see ghosts; and in Consolamentum, a miracle occurs that … well, wait and see.
So while readers may puzzle over whether magic, witchcraft, or miraculous events are real, the important story is Sofia’s journey from spoiled princess to independent woman. In that journey she must come to grips with not only the beliefs of others but also survive in a world of total war, where the biggest superstition may be the conviction that God is on the winner’s side.