The Mayfair Witches

The Mayfair Witches

The "Lives of the Mayfair Witches" novels are a trilogy written by the horror author Anne Rice. They feature the Mayfair Family, haunted by a demon called Lasher. The trilogy consists of: "The Witching Hour", "Lasher", and "Taltos".

The Mayfair Witches

The Family History

The origin of the Mayfair Witches saga goes back to Suzanne Mayfair (a simpleton and an ancestor of Rowan) who was the first Mayfair witch to "command" Lasher after waking his spirit in Donnelaith, Scotland. Lasher had promised the Mayfair family wealth and power in exchange for assistance to make him flesh. Lasher believed that the Mayfair witches had the ability to bring him into the world, and secretly hopes to populate and subdue the world with his offspring. The entire History of the family is narrated in The Witching Hour.

Lasher

The reader soon discovers that Lasher in the flesh belongs to the Taltos, a near-extinct superhuman race that once occupied the Highlands of Scotland. When the Romans overran the country, they sought to breed with them, believing they would achieve military might if they could father powerful sons who would grow to manhood within hours. But when they failed to breed with the Taltos, they decided to destroy them. Later on, when Christianity came to Scotland, Ashlar, then leader of the Taltos, converted to the new religion, and condemned those who did not convert, including his own wife, whom he had burned at the stake.

Lasher was a Taltos, believed to be St. Ashlar reborn and, after a 23 year stay in Italy learning to be a priest, he returns to Scotland to defend Donnelaith against the Protestants. He was burnt at the stake and existed as a bodiless, senseless spirit until called up by Suzanne Mayfair.

The Witches

In Chronological order, these are the fourteen Witches:
*1 - Suzanne Mayfair (?-1664)
*2 - Deborah Mayfair (1652-1689),
*3 - Charlotte Mayfair (1667-1743)
*4 - Jeanne-Louise Mayfair (1690-1771)
*5 - Angélique Mayfair (1725-?)
*6 - Marie-Claudette Mayfair (1760-1831)
*7 - Marguerite Mayfair (1799-1891)
*8 - Katherine Mayfair (1830-1905),but the real witch was Julien Mayfair
*9 - Mary Beth Mayfair (1872-1925)
*10 - Stella Mayfair (1901-1929)
*11 - Antha Mayfair (1921-1941)
*12 - Deirdre Mayfair (1941-1989)
*13 - Rowan Mayfair (1959-)
*14 - Mona Mayfair (1976-2004)

The Mayfair Legacy

The Mayfair Legacy is a complex affair, full of legal jargon and twists and turns. Into each generation a witch is born (though there are many powerful, and not-so-powerful, witches scattered throughout the branches of the family) that is chosen as a future Designee by the present Designee. The present Designee (always a woman to date) usually chooses her daughter, which may or may not be her first-born daughter; this decision can be changed at any time, as with Mary Beth choosing her younger daughter Stella over the elder, Carlotta. The Designee can choose a male, but to date this has never happened, despite there being at one time a male witch, Julien, who was stronger than the Designee of the time.

The Designee is the head of what has become known as the Legacy family, which is the branch of the Mayfair family that stems, from daughter to daughter, from Deborah to Charlotte, who purchased a large emerald that would later be known as the Mayfair Emerald.

The Designee

Until Mona Mayfair, the Designee of the Mayfair family has always been a daughter of the current Designee, regardless of whether or not she is powerful. It seems that the Designee has only ever needed to meet the following criteria: to be female; to display some form of power (which in the case of Katherine does not display itself often - however, when caught with her lover by her brother Julien, she did call Lasher against Julien); and to display an attachment to the spirit Lasher, known to other branches of the family as "the man".

Upon the creation of Mayfair and Mayfair, the law firm founded by Julien and his sons Cortland, Barclay, and Garland, and after the passing of Mary Beth, the Legacy came under the control of the law firm and the descendants of Julien as Stella's behest, who had no interest in it whatsoever as long as her escapades could be funded.

ynopsis

The Witching Hour

In this book we meet some of the trilogy's leading characters: Dr. Rowan Mayfair, a brilliant neurosurgeon who is ignorant of her family history; Michael Curry, an architect dreaming of his old home in New Orleans; Aaron Lightner, a psychic scholar and member of the Talamasca; Lasher, a spirit with wicked motives; and the Mayfair Witches, an old Southern family with a taste for poetry and incest, and a talent for secretiveness and business ventures.

Rowan and Michael fall in love after she saves him from drowning, and when he decides to return to New Orleans, she follows him to learn the secrets of her past. Aaron has been studying the Mayfairs and Lasher from afar for years, and tracks down Michael to share with him the history of the family and the spirit, whom Michael has been able to see since he was a boy. What follows is a gruesome story filled with murder, incest, and betrayal. There are, however, many gaps which can only be filled in by Lasher himself.

Rowan and Michael marry despite all this, and Rowan takes on the responsibilities of the Designee of the Mayfair Legacy. She dreams of a medical center where anyone, regardless of age, race, or financial status, can be treated and healed. She conceives, and it seems as if she and Michael may escape the curse of the Legacy.

This is not be, however, as Lasher finally reveals himself to Rowan, and explains his wish: to be made flesh. Secretly thinking that she can outwit this spirit, she agrees to send Michael away from the house on Christmas Day so that Lasher can fulfil his centuries-old ambition. Whatever she has planned backfires as Lasher enters her womb, and makes himself at home in the fetus. Rowan immediately goes into labor, which is violent and bloody, and Lasher, the Taltos, is born.

Michael returns to the house then, and seeing what has become of the child that had desperately wished for, he throws himself at the creature, thinking to kill him. Lasher is much too strong, though, and attempts to drown Michael in the pool. Terrified for Michael's life, Rowan drags the creature away, and they run off together.

Lasher

The novel begins shortly after the mysterious disappearance of Dr. Rowan Mayfair, who only recently was married to Michael Curry a famous restorer of older homes. Michael, feeling betrayed by Rowan, has sunk into a depression helped along by the useless drugs prescribed to him after his close-encounter with death.

Along comes the sexually adventurous Mona Mayfair, a thirteen-year-old, whose powers rival that of Rowan. Mona has more lines of descent from Julien than anyone else in the family. She seduces Michael, causing him to snap out of his stupor and renew his vow to find his wife at all costs. He is now convinced that wherever she has gone, she hasn't gone willingly.

And though it was she who dragged Lasher away from the house, she is now a prisoner of the monster she has created. He impregnates her twice, both times ending in miscarriage, and is successful the third time. As he drags her throughout Europe, she manages to send off DNA samples to colleagues in San Francisco, who discover that Lasher is a completely different species, and that Rowan herself has a genetic abnormality, a "super" helix, or 92 chromosomes, which may have assisted in Lasher's supernatural birth.

The duo returns to the States, where Lasher sets out to impregnate other female members of the Mayfair family. All attempts are unsuccessful as the women immediately miscarry and hemorrhage to death. Rowan manages to escape Lasher, and after hitchhiking to Louisiana, collapses in a field and gives birth to Emaleth, a female Taltos. Rowan's last words to Emaleth are to find Michael, which she sets out to do, thinking that Rowan has died.

Rowan is found, and is rushed to a hospital, where she is diagnosed as being in toxic shock. An emergency hysterectomy is performed to save her life, eliminating all chances of her ever giving birth again. She is taken home to Michael, where she remains in a coma, though, unbeknownst to all, she is still aware of her surroundings.

Lasher returns to the house to tell Michael and Aaron his story of his past life. Born to Queen Anne of England, the second wife of Henry VIII, and man from Donnelaith, Lasher is believed to be a saint known as Ashlar, and is quickly taken away by his father to Donnelaith. His father is the son of the Earl of Donnelaith, and from there he is sent to Italy to become a priest. He returns to Scotland after Elizabeth I takes the throne, and is killed there while performing Christmas Mass by followers of the Protestant reformer John Knox. Before his death the people of Donnelaith brought in members of the "Little People" for Lasher to breed with. The subsequent Taltos children were to be used in some form of sacrifice; they were burnt in a great fire along with the Yule log. He knows nothing again until Suzanne calls him back into existence.

Michael patiently hears Lasher out, and when his story is complete, Michael wastes no time in killing him and burying him under the great oak in the yard. Soon after, he discovers Emaleth in Rowan's room, feeding her the highly nutritious milk from her breasts. This resuscitates Rowan, but upon seeing Emaleth before her, she panics and screams at Michael to kill her. Michael refuses to, so Rowan grabs a gun and shoots her daughter in the head. Rowan immediately realizes what she's done, and crying for her daughter, insists that she be the one to bury her. She buries Emaleth next to Lasher under the oak.

Taltos

As the trilogy continues, the reader is introduced to Ashlar, founder of a multi-millionaire toy corporation based in New York City - - and a Taltos, possibly the last of his kind on earth. He is quietly reflecting back on his long life when he gets a call from a friend named Samuel. A male Taltos has been seen in the glen of Donnelaith, and there is someone with information about the male. Ashlar is shocked, as he hasn't seen one of his kind in centuries, and immediately flies to London to meet with his friend.

As for Rowan Mayfair, after burying her daughter, the Taltos Emaleth, she goes into a semi-catatonic state. She walks, she bathes, she eats, but she does not speak, and does not respond to those around her. Her husband Michael Curry and adopted designess Mona are worried for her, and plead with her to speak. A visiting cousin by the name of Mary Jane takes one look at Rowan and declares that she is still there, and that she will speak again in her own time.

And so she does that same afternoon when we discover that her beloved friend, Aaron Lightner, an excommunicated Talamasca scholar who recently married into the family, has been deliberately run over by a car. She immediately goes to the morgue, taking Mona with her. After saying her good-bye to him, she makes plans with Michael to go to London and seek revenge on the Talamasca, whom she believes to be responsible for her friend's death.

Mona discovers that she is pregnant by Michael, and after Rowan gives her blessing, she ecstatically shares the news with the family. Michael and Rowan leave for London to meet up with Yuri Stefano, a pupil and friend of Aaron who has also been excommunicated by the Talamasca. Through Yuri they meet the Taltos Ashlar and his friend Samuel, who is one of the Little People of Donnelaith. Ashlar has by then killed the Superior General of the Talamasca, Anton Marcus, for his part in Aaron's death. They kidnap Stuart Gordon, an elderly member who has also had a hand in the death and the mysterious goings-on of late. Through him we discover that he and two of his pupils have hatched a scheme to unite Lasher with a female Taltos they have possession of so that they may witness the birth of a Taltos. To make sure that Aaron and Yuri didn't catch on, the pupils, Marklin and Tommy, sent fake communications to them that they believed came from the Elders, the governing force behind the Talamasca. When Aaron and Yuri continued to interfere, they "excommunicated" the pair.

Stuart is forced to take the group into the countryside, where he keeps the female Taltos. Ashlar comes face to face with this female, exciting Stuart, who demands that they birth a child. Ashlar embraces the female, named Tessa, and informs Stuart that she is unable to birth any children. He points out that every strand of her hair is white, indicating her great age and her inability to conceive. This breaks Stuart's heart. And after finally knowing what has been going on, Ashlar decides to kill Stuart for all the trouble he has caused, killing people to achieve his goals. But Rowan beats him to the punch, using her strong telepathic abilities to cause a stroke. Yuri takes Tessa to the Talamasca, who now know what has been going on. They welcome Tessa with open arms, and punish Marklin and Tommy for their treachery.

Meanwhile, Mona has discovered that the child she carries is a Taltos, a female named Morrigan. She runs off with Mary Jane to Fontevrault, an old plantation sunken into the marsh that has been owned by a separate branch of the Mayfair family for generations. There Mary Jane's grandmother, Dolly Jean, helps deliver the new Taltos, who is a spitting image, if taller version, of her mother. Mona then and there names Morrigan the Designee of the Mayfair Legacy, and she and Mary Jane make plans for the future in case Rowan and Michael try to kill Morrigan.

Ashlar takes Rowan and Michael with him to New York, and tells them the story of his long life; how the Taltos once thrived on a tropical island north of the British Isles that apparently was a semi-active volcano. They had been there since "The Time Before the Moon" (briefly mentioned by the vampire Maharet in "Queen of the Damned", the third installment in Anne Rice's "Vampire Chronicles"), and lived innocently and peacefully until the land began to shift under their feet. The water became too hot, and the animals died. The tribe escapes in time and flees south to the bitter cold of Scotland. From there they can see the island as it sinks into the sea. They make do in their new home, becoming hunter-gatherers, and occasionally spotting the early humans, whom they kept as pets once in a while. They break off into different tribes and the largest of them, led by Ashlar, goes south to Somerset where they settle. Their peace is often disrupted by the Celtic raids on the land. To adapt and live peacefully among humans, they become the Picts, and Ashlar their king. When Christianity comes to them in the form of St Columba, Ashlar converts with more than half his tribe. But there is a conflict between the Christians and non-Christians, and war ensues. Soon only five Taltos males left, and they all become priests, including Ashlar. Several years later, he attempts to tell his story to a fellow priest, but he only laughs and says that the story is blasphemy. Ashlar is disillusioned, and goes on a pilgrimage, leaving Donnelaith forever. So ends his story.

Rowan and Michael return to New Orleans, where Michael is introduced to his daughter, Morrigan. He and Rowan accepts Mona's decision to make Morrigan the Designee, and Morrigan settles in until Ashlar sends gifts to his new friends. When he doesn't hear from them, he goes to the First Street house to see them. There he sees this young female Taltos, who is in a frenzy. She can smell Ashlar on the gifts, and demands to know where she can find him. She catches his scent on the wind, and sees him standing outside. She breaks through a window and runs into his arms, and they run away together.

The characters return in the Vampire Chronicles books, Blackwood Farm and Blood Canticle.

External links

* [http://www.annerice.com Anne Rice's official website]
* [http://www.amazon.com/gp/cdp/member-reviews/AB4F6UHL20U95/ Reviews written by Anne Rice on amazon.com]
*Anne Rice's new book "Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt", ISBN 0-375-41201-8.
* [http://wiredforbooks.org/annerice/ Two audio interviews (1985 and 1988) of Anne Rice - RealAudio]
* [http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/04/opinion/04rice.html?ei=5090&en=ce2f33f8719dba9c&ex=1283486400&partner=rssuserland&emc=rss&pagewanted=print Anne Rice: Do You Know What It Means to Lose New Orleans?] (regarding Hurricane Katrina)


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