I have had a number of people ask me about the references to the Bakongo religion in EVER NEAR. Some believed I made it up, but I assure you I did not. Bakongo is a very real religious and ethnic group from the west coast of Africa-the Congo Region in fact. The Congo was a major slave trade area. Many African American slaves in the U.S. south practiced aspects of it, often combining it with the tenets of Christianity. Bakongo had no written scriptures and varied based on tribal separations. Most of the facts I used in EVER NEAR came from this article, Cemetery Symbolism,including the spirit world being upside down under ours and the pitchers and candles used to help the spirits find their way.
The skeleton key that Jade wears in EVER NEAR came from my own imagination. However I used the cosmogram, a symbol in the Bakongo religion, for the wheel part of it. The cosmogram is discussed here. This paper/article is interesting because the belief in human conjurers like Jade is addressed.
Finally, I combined the key with the idea of the wheel. The wagon wheel pattern was part of the quilt symbolism used by the Underground Railroad to help runaway slaves escape North. The main article I used for this is found here.
Melissa MacVicar lives on Nantucket Island where she writes novels and teaches writing to seventh graders. She loves eating sweets, Downton Abbey, fantasy football, and wearing comfy pants. She loves to get messages from her readers so don't be shy!