The characters in the Epithalmium series are fond of music and literature. (A coincidence, surely. It couldn’t be because the author likes those things too, could it?) People have occasionally asked me about the references in the stories, so I thought I’d share a bit more about some of them here.

Minerva’s Background

Being the compulsive sort, I wanted to make sure I knew what Minerva had been doing during the time between leaving the Auror corps and returning to Hogwarts and what she’d be doing as a teacher, so I created the following documents:

Minerva’s 1956 curriculum vitae (CV) (created with the help and advice of Albalark, a fandom friend and actual scientist.)


Minerva & Albus listen to two radio addresses on D-Day (6 June 1944):

Address of Gen. Dwight Eisenhower (Supreme Commdander of the Allied Expeditionary Force) to Occupied Europe at the onset of the Invasion of Normandy.
D-Day address of King George VI to his subjects ~ listen here.


Music: “Bonnie Wee Thing”
Composer: Liza Lehman (1862-1918). Lyrics from the 1793 poem by Robert Burns (1759-1796).
Artists: Neeber-Schuler-Chor Frankfurt

Song used in Bonnie Wee Thing
Music: Requiem Mass in D-minor, K. 626 ~ VII. Communio: Lux aeterna
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)
Artists: Wiener Philharmoniker/von Karjan; Wiener Singverein (chorus), Anna Tomowa-Sintow (soprano)

Music: “Comin’ Thro the Rye”
Composer: Anonymous. A traditional Scottish folk song, with lyrics from the poem by Robert Burns (1759-1796).
Artists: Nellie Melba (soprano), from a 1913 Victor recording

Music: “My Love’s in Germany”
Composer: Anonymous. A traditional Scottish folk song, with lyrics from the 1794 poem by Hector Macneill (1746-1811).
Artists: Lads Go Buskin

Song used in Epithalamium ~ Chapter 26
Music: Götterdämmerung ~ “Fleigt heim, ihr Raben!”
Richard Wagner (1813-1883)
Artists: Viener Philharmoniker/Georg Solti, Birgit Nilsson (soprano)

Music: La forza del destino ~ Pace, pace, mio Dio”
Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901), libretto by Francesco Maria Piave (1810-1876)
Artists: Bell Telephone Hour Orchestra/Donald Voorhees, Leontyne Price,(soprano), from a 1967 Bell Telephone Hour broadcast.

Music: Tannhäuser ~ Overture
Richard Wagner (1813-1883)
Artists: Chicago Symphony Orchestra/George Solti
Song used in Because It Is Bitter, and Because It Is My Heart ~ Chapter 7

Music: “My Luv is Like a Red, Red Rose”
Anonymous. A traditional Scottish folk song, with lyrics from the poem by Robert Burns (1759-1796)
Artists: Richard Morrison (baritone), Alan Kitchen (piano)
Song used in Song used in Till A’ the Seas Gang Dry (December 1957)


Where possible, I’ve included links to works you can read online.

Epithalamion ~ is a 1595 poem by English poet Edmund Spenser, presumably written to celebrate his marriage to his second wife, Elizabeth Boyle. It is generally considered among the greatest examples of the epithalamium, a form of poetry popular in the classical world. An epithalamium is a song or poem written to sing a bride to the bridal chamber. My novel Epithalamium takes its title from it (obviously), and the epigraph that introduces Part I is a quotation from Spenser’s poem. Minerva and Albus were both made to memorise it in childhood, and Albus quotes it to her on their wedding night.

A Christmas Carol ~ is an 1843 novella by English author Charles Dickens (1812-1870). It’s traditional fare in English-speaking countries, and has been adapted for stage and screen innumerable times. Minerva’s family reads from it on Christmas night.

Tertium Organum (Third Organon) ~ is a 1912 book on human consciousness and thought by Russian philosopher and mystic P. D. Ouspensky (1878-1947). It was intended as a continuation of Aristotle’s Organon (4th century BCE) and Bacon’s Novum Organum (1620). An organon is an instrument of thought, especially a means of reasoning or a system of logic (Oxford Dictionary online). Albus gives Minerva a copy of Ouspensky’s book as part of her initial Animagus training.

A Rapture ~ is a erotic poem (ca. 1630) by English poet Thomas Carew (1595-1640). It was both popular and scandalous in its time. It is the first poem Albus inscribes in the journal he gives to Minerva.

The Bonnie Lass o’ Dundee ~ is an 1877 poem by Scottish poet William Topaz McGonagall (1825-1902), sometimes called “the worst poet in the English language”. He is Minerva’s great-great uncle, a Squib.

Confessiones ~ is the autobiography (ca. 397) of St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430). Albus quotes its most famous line, “Give me chastity and continence, but not yet.”

“Of the Argonauts and an Epithalamium for Peleus and Thetis (Carmen 64) ~ is an epithalmium by Roman poet Gaius Valerius Catullus (ca. 84 BCE – ca. 54 BCE). Lines 52-57 serve as the epigraph to Part II of Epithalamium. (The translation is by Robert Kline.)

Confiteor ~ is a confession of sins used in the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church. An English-language version can be found on Wikipedia. It is recited to Minerva by a dying young woman after the 16 August massacre in the Bois de Bologne that killed 35 young French Resistance fighters just before the liberation of Paris from the German Occupation.

The Hotel Majestic ~ is a 1942 mystery by Belgian novelist Georges Simenon (1903-1989). Albus reads it on the train from Paris to Munich.

Epithalamium is a poem from the 1924 book Tulips & Chimneys by American poet E. E. Cummings (1894-1962). Several lines comprise the epigraph to Part II of Epithalamium.

The Waste Land ~ is a 1922 poem by American poet T. S. Eliot (1888-1965). It’s one of the poems Albus inscribes in Minerva’s journal.

The Second Coming ~ is a 1919 poem by Irish poet William Butler Yeats. Albus thinks about it in connection with Tom Riddle.

My Nanie’s Awa ~ is a 1794 song by Robert Burns. The title and epigraph of Come Autumn, Sae Pensive (1967) are taken from the final verse.

Song of the Stygian Naiades ~ is an 1851 poem by English poet Thomas Lovell Beddoes (1803-1849). Albus reads to Minerva from it.

Maud ~ is and 1855 poem by English poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809-1892). Albus reads from it to an unconscious Minerva.

Bat ~ is a poem by English writer D. H. Lawrence (1885-1930) from his 1923 book Birds, Beasts and Flowers. The twelfth stanza is the epigraph for Mammals of the Order Chiroptera (August 1995).

In the Desert ~ American writer Stephen Crane’s (1871-1900) poem (untitled, but commonly called after its opening line) from his 1895 book, The Black Riders and Other Lines, is the epigraph for Because It Is Bitter, and Because It Is My Heart, and title of my story is taken from the poem’s final lines.

Paradise Lost ~ Lines 791-793 of English poet John Milton’s (1608-1674) epic poem from 1667 form the epigraph for Chapter Sixteen (“Eating Death”) of Because It Is Bitter, and Because It Is My Heart.

Malleus Maleficarum ~ is a 1486 treatise by German clergyman Heinrich Kramer. It was used in the prosecution of witches and Chapter Eighteen of Because It Is Bitter, and Because It Is My Heart takes its title from Part I, Question VI: “Concerning Witches who copulate with Devils. Why is it that Women are chiefly addicted to Evil superstitions?”


Several images inspired various moments in the story, particularly those related to the 1945 firebombing of Dresden (warning–some images are disturbing):

This is how I imagined the scene in which Albus is rescued from the ruins of the Zeiss Optical factory.
This is the photo I imagined on the front page of the Daily Prophet the day after the bombing and the duel between Albus and Grindelwald.
This is the photo of the VE Day celebration in Trafalgar Square that Minerva gets caught up in.
Elcho Castle

I imagine the McGonagall family home looking something like Elcho Castle. And this is the view I imagine from the coast near the McGonagall family home in Caithness.

Quairaing Landslip

This is the Quairaing landslip that Albus and Minerva visit on the Isle of Skye. (Img. by masher2, from Flickr. Used under a CC BY-SA 2.0 licence.)

I imagined the inn at which Albus and Minerva take their Skye weekend looked a bit like the Flodigarry House Hotel.

One thought on “Background

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