The slaves in Ganymede Quartet have a belief system that’s very important to them and this is introduced in A Proper Lover (GQ Book 2). Hetaeria, Latin for “fellowship,” is one of the names this belief system goes by. It is not a religion, per se, but a system of interdependency and symbolism. The slaves are raised up in the Houses understanding the importance of cooperation, of being supportive of one another, and of getting along. In many ways, their lives depend on it. In addition to their actual behavior, they demonstrate their support of one another and their friendships through the exchange of handmade talismans.
The slaves are a vulnerable population, and I felt they would have something specific to their subculture that would offer reassurance and support. I wanted the slaves to have something that mattered to them that they could do in tandem with a religious practice, if necessary, but that their masters wouldn’t take seriously. Henry does take it seriously, if only because it’s important to Martin; however, to his dismay, most of his friends dismiss the slave beliefs as childish nonsense and aren’t remotely interested in learning anything about them. Henry really is different!
In Hetaeria, symbols, colors and materials all have meaning, and the meanings are drawn from a variety of sources: all manner of religions, superstitions, folk medicine, astrology, fortune-telling. Really, the slaves take meaning from anything that seems like it has meaning. They’re adaptable in this as they are in everything, picking and choosing the useful bits of varied traditions. I wanted it to be an adaptable, fluid mishmash of influences and ideas. I have quite a few dictionaries and encyclopedias of esoterica, and these did come in handy, though I found just as much of what I wanted online.
In case it’s not evident from the text, some slave in the Briggs household is particularly skilled at painting, and the bee is beautifully done. The ability to create a beautiful talisman of some sort definitely adds to a slave’s status within his or her household. The bee has long been a symbol of industry, organization and intelligence, all of which are required of slaves, and all of which are qualities for anyone to be proud of.
APL trivia: The first draft of the scene where Martin shows Henry some of his talismans included a description of a protection stone decorated with a swastika. I was told that this had to go because Nazis, and I was pretty resistant to this, to say the least. I was under the impression that most people were well aware that the swastika was a very positive luck symbol for millenia until it was co-opted by the Nazis. Circa 1900, it would have been a very benign symbol. The beta reader who wanted me to get rid of it certainly did know this. But maybe most people don’t know? Well, now you do. And, obviously, I was talked out of including it, and I don’t think the scene suffers for the lack of it.
But, see? It really was just lucky during the Gilded Age. The other side of this coin has a Boy Scout on it!