December 29th, 2009 by Joe Nassise
What the heck is a Spirit Banner anyway?

The Spirit Banner3My Rogue Angel novel, THE SPIRIT BANNER, hits bookstore shelves later this week and I’m looking forward to seeing how fans react to Annja’s newest adventure. I’m a history buff and getting the chance to work on this series -which effectively combines history, archeology, and a touch of the mystical – was a real pleasure for me.

This time around, Annja is hired to help locate the long lost tomb of the man who seemingly did the impossible by uniting the many tribes of the Mongol steppes and leading them to become one of the most feared warrior nations on earth, Genghis Khan.  The Great Khan, as he was known, was a cunning leader and a brilliant strategist.  I enjoyed learning more about him as I conducted my research for the novel.

For my post this week, I wanted to give our readers here at Genreality a sneak peek inside the book.  I’ve chosen an excerpt from chapter six in which Annja is hired by multimillionaire John Davenport to locate the Great Khan’s tomb.   She, of course, finds the entire notion ridiculous…

Once the help had withdrawn, Davenport continued.  “I’m considering putting together an expedition to find the Khan’s lost tomb.”

“Don’t bother,” said Annja, without even glancing up from her drink.  Because she didn’t do so, she missed the quick flicker of surprise that flashed across Davenport’s face.

“Why not?” he asked.

“Because he more than likely didn’t have one.”

Davenport laughed, but when Annja glanced at him without joining in he looked at her expression more closely.  “You seem pretty sure of yourself.”

“I am.”

“Why is that?”

“Because the Mongol people didn’t believe in tombs in the first place.”  Annja paused to gather her thoughts and to figure out the best way of passing on what she knew without seeming to preach at him. “Remember that the Mongols were a nomadic people, both before and after Genghis united them as a single political body.  They had few cities and those they did have were more oriented toward storage of war booty rather than for any community-minded purpose.”

Davenport nodded.  “Go on.”

“Because the Mongols moved from place to place, their religious beliefs evolved very much along similar lines.  They considered the natural world to be full of spirits, much like the animists of feudal Japan. For instance, they were forbidden from bathing in rivers or streams because such places were considered the life blood of the earth itself and doing so would have been a horrible affront to the land.

“A Mongol warrior’s greatest possession was his Spirit Banner, or sulde, made from tying strands of hair from his best horses to the shaft of a spear.  Whenever he made camp, the warrior would place the Spirit Banner outside the entrance to his tent to show his presence and to stand as a perpetual guardian beneath the Eternal Blue Sky that the Mongols worshipped as god.  The banner would soak up the power of the wind, the sun and the sky, transferring that power to the warrior.  When he dreamed, the banner would show him his destiny.  Over time, the union between the warrior and the banner became so strong that upon the warrior’s death, his soul was considered to reside in the banner and not the body.”

“But Genghis was not just any warrior,” Davenport protested.  “He was the spiritual father and warlord of the Mongol people.  Just like people today, they would have wanted a place to remember him.”

Annja shook her head.  “They had one – the Spirit Banner.  It rode with the Khan’s descendants until 1647 when it was placed in the Shank Monastery for safekeeping.”

Davenport seemed fascinated with her story.  “So you’re saying the Mongol people didn’t need a tomb because Genghis Khan’s very soul rode alongside them wherever they went?”

While it wasn’t a perfect explanation of Mongol religious beliefs, it was close enough that she nodded in agreement.

“Interesting,” said Davenport, sitting back and watching her for a moment before continuing.  “What if I told you that the legends were true, that the Mongols did build a secret tomb for their Great Khan?  That they filled it with an amazingly diverse treasure trove, loot from the hundreds of cultures he conquered?   And what if I said I had in my possession the journal of a man who had intimate details of the burial process itself, a journal that contained a map to the location of the tomb itself?”

Annja couldn’t help but smile.  “I’d say you’d better hire someone to authenticate the map and the writings pretty darn quick, because whatever you paid for it, it was too much.  You’ve been had.  Hell, I’d be happy to do it for you myself, just to prove to you the ridiculousness of the very idea.”

Davenport smiled.  “Good.  Then that’s settled,” he said with a laugh.  “You can start first thing in the morning.”

Annja stared at him blankly for a moment and then it dawned her that she had been neatly led right where Davenport had wanted her to go.

Well, she’d just have to take the job and show him how wrong he was.  After the events of earlier in the week she knew that the dig was all but finished for the season; she’d simply give them a call and let them know she was going home early.

A map to the tomb of Genghis Khan?  Ridiculous!

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5 comments to “What the heck is a Spirit Banner anyway?”

  1. Sasha White
     · December 29th, 2009 at 1:33 pm · Link

    Congratulations on the release, Joe. I really enjoy many of the Rogue Angel books. I’ll be picking this one up for sure!

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