Friday, December 08, 2017

Supernatural Friday: Legend of the Poinsettia



There is a legend of the poinsettia told in Mexico. A girl named Maria came from a poor family. She and her family looked forward to the Christmas festival. A large manger scene would be set up in the village church. There were parades and parties on the days leading up to Christmas.

She was saddened as her family had no money to buy presents. She wanted badly to give something to the church for the Baby Jesus, but knew her family could not afford to.

Maria and her family set out for church to attend the service. As the members of her family outdistanced her, to Maria’s shock, an angel of the Lord appeared to her. The angel told her to pick some weds along the road to offer as her gift to the baby Jesus. The angel vanished, and Maris did as the angel suggested. She figured better the weeds than nothing at all. Other children teased her about her gift, but Maria ignored them. She set the green plants around the manger and at that moment, a miracle happened. The green top leaves changed into bright red petals! 

This Christmas miracle legend of Mexico began in the 1600's. It’s been retold in many different ways over the years, including Caldecott Award winning writer and illustrator, Tomie dePaola. Though it is a lovely story, it is nothing more than a myth.

Actually, the poinsettia proves to be a sort of miraculous plant, as what appears to be the red flower petal isn’t a flower petal at all. It is a bract, or a modified leaf that turns red in response to the longer nights of November and December. Like the changing of the fall leaves with the longer nights, the poinsettia changes color in the same way.





The real flower is the starry yellow cluster at the center. Some poinsettia varieties grow as tall as ten feet high and its bracts range a rainbow of colors from red, white, pink, to even be pale green, or peach. The color will remain longer if the room temperature doesn’t go beyond 71 Fahrenheit. It is also important to note that wilted plants loose their bracts sooner. Another thing to do would be to keep the soil moist. Avoid over watering the planet or letting it remain in standing water. Just take off the wrap and let the water drain. This will keep the leaves from dropping or curling. And don’t put outside, as poinsettias are sensitive to cold and won’t survive. Don’t fertilize while it is blooming either, bur after blooming season ends. To get a plant to reflower, keep it in darkness between 5 p.m. and 8 a.m., until the color returns on the leaves.

Another myth concerns that the plant is poisonous. That is a misconception. A study at Ohio State University has proven a child of fifty pounds ingesting 500 bracts may get a slight tummy ache, but won’t die from it. Still, the plant should not still be eaten by people or animals.


Called La flor de la Nochebuena, or the flower of the Holy Night in Mexico, it was in the 1800's, that the U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, Joel Roberts Poinsett, noticed the plant and brought some cuttings back home with him to try to cultivate them in his greenhouse. Unofficially, the Poinsettia was named due to the biologist Poinsett. His cultivation development techniques are used in greenhouses worldwide to produce the favorite brilliant, crimson red poinsettia of Christmas.








Friday, December 01, 2017

Supernatural Friday: It's That Time of Year When You Might Be Dragged to Hell!






Christmas is not just a time of joy, gifts, and goodwill, it’s also a season of dark myths and legends. 

In the olden days gone by in Finland, they believed in Joulupukki. That word means Yule buck. 

In December, pagan people had big festivals to ward off the Joulupukki. These spirits of darkness wore goat skins and horns. In the beginning this creature didn't give presents but demanded them. It was an ugly creature and frightened children. It is unclear how this personality was transformed into the benevolent Father Christmas. Nowadays the only remaining feature is the name. The process was probably a continuous amalgamation of many old folk customs and beliefs from varied sources. One can speak of a Christmas pageant tradition consisting of many personages with roles partly Christian, partly pagan: A white-bearded saint, the Devil, demons, and house gnomes. Nowadays the Joulupukki of Finland resembles the American Santa Claus. While most gift givers around the world deliver their presents in the middle of the night while everyone is sleeping, children in Finland get to see Joulupukki in the act of delivering the presents.
 
This reminds me of Black Peter and the Krampus, both being Santa’s “evil twin.” In many areas of the world, it is said that St. Nicholas has a companion. This companion is Krampus, though another version is Black Peter, or Zarte Piet or Zwarte Piet. Black Peter is associated with the Netherlands and has dark skin. Krampus isn't a man though. He has horns, goat hair, hooves, and claws. Just like a demon. His job is to accompany St. Nicholas and to warn and punish bad children. He is said to carry a basket on his back where he will place the bad children and take them to Hell to be tossed into the pit. It puts a frightening twist on “have you been naughty or nice!”
 
Krampus originates from Krampen--meaning claw. Krampus is the dark companion of St. Nicholas, the traditional European winter gift-bringer. This fiendish being is usually seen as a classic devil with horns, cloven hooves and monstrous tongue. Unlike American children who get coal if they’re bad, instead the Krampus beats them savagely for their misdeeds and then drag them down to hell. Born of a pre-Christian, Alpine Pagan tradition, he is identified by matted-black hair, along tongue that snakes out of his maw, and cloven hooves. He also sports a large wicker basket on his back, filled to the brim with thorny, unbreakable birch sticks for those beatings he deliversHe always comes with St. Nick who brings presents, but before the gifts are handed out, those who are bad is given what they "deserve" by him. Also, taking part in this Krampus legend, are young men that dress up in goat skins and masks they spent two weeks making and on December 5th, head out to scare all, and carry out "birching," mainly on young girls. Krampus makes the Grinch before his heart went several sizes bigger look good!

Friday, November 24, 2017

Supernatural Friday: A Season of Good tidings or a Season of Scares?

It's that time of the year to smooch under the mistletoe, shop for loved ones, and go view Christmas lights on the Tacky Lights Tour. The season is full of good tidings and happiness, nothing scarier than you might get that special gift from Santa Claus. Right?





WRONG! People in olden days didn’t stay indoors due to the “frightful” weather, but more because it might have been cold and dangerous outside. They knew in their hearts that dark forces lurked amidst the shadows of the snow drifts. Winter Solstice (December 21) was seen as a time when the fabric between the mortal world and the world of malicious spirits became thin enough for things to snatch unwary victims. Though the fiends are lout all winter, still, this time prove to be the scariest. When many gathered together to celebrate, it was hoped that the dark spirits would realize with all that din that there were too many bodies inside or caroling outside to grab one person. Another custom practiced was doors were flung open at midnight to let out trapped evil spirits caught inside the building. A candle was left burning in the window all night to insure good luck for the family inside. Any candle that burned out before dawn was deemed a bad sign. 




Another thing said is that those born on Christmas are apt more to see a spirit than those not. But they have nothing to fear from any ghost if they chance to encounter one. They are also protected against deaths by drowning or hanging.


Witches are a part of Christmas too—through our very own Christmas ornaments, or balls. In Scotland, people used to wear them around their necks to ward off witches. It was also believed in Scotland and Canada that if a witch touched one, her/his soul would be caught within the ball forever. 



A witch ball is a hollow sphere of plain or stained glass hung in cottage windows in eighteenth-century England to ward off evil spirits, witch's spells, or ill fortune, though the witch's ball actually originated among cultures where witches were considered a blessing. Witches would usually "enchant" the balls to enhance their potency against evils. Later, they were often posted on top of a vase or suspended by a cord (as from the mantelpiece or rafters) for a decorative effect. Witch balls appeared in America in the nineteenth century and were often found in gardens under the name "gazing ball,” something that has come back, as I bought one last summer to place in my own garden. However, "gazing balls" contain no strands within their interior. According to folk tales, witch balls would entice evil spirits with their bright colors; the strands inside the ball would then capture the spirit and prevent it from escaping. 




Witch balls sometimes measure as large as seven inches (eighteen cm) in diameter. By tradition, but not always, the witch ball is green or blue in color and made from glass. There have been others made of wood, grass, or twigs, instead of glass. Some are decorated in enameled swirls and brilliant stripes of various colors. The gazing balls found in many of today's gardens are derived from silvered witch balls that acted as convex mirrors, warding off evil by reflecting it away. 


Because they look similar to the glass balls used on fishing nets, witch balls are often associated with sea superstitions and legends. The modern Christmas ornament ball is descended from the witch ball. According to an ancient tale, the ornament was originally placed on the tree to dispel a visitor’s envy at the presents left beneath the tree.


Besides the ball, mistletoe was also considered a powerful charm to be used against witches, along with lightening. The lightening? Is it connected, as maybe caused by a witch? Good question.


This time of year also has ghost stories told. Just as much as Halloween. Charles Dickens’ novel, the Christmas Carol, Is proof of that. Those Victorian people did more than go Christmas caroling or drank mulled wine by the roaring fires. There’s even that line in It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year song that goes "There'll be scary ghost stories and tales of the glories of Christmas long, long ago." There are novels and anthologies that come out this time of the year, ghostly fiction or horror stories. One book of fiction I found is Christmas Ghosts, edited by Kathryn Cramer and David G. Hartwell. I ordered for myself, a ghostly tale set during Christmas time for my Kindle, The Carousel by James Cessford. The eBook intrigued me to read it and it was not a bad price. Search Amazon or your local brick and mortar independent bookstore for other Christmas ghost stories to buy and read.



Besides, ghost stories, there are other dark myths and legends concerning with Christmas. In the olden days gone by in Finland, they believed in Joulupukki. Pagan people used to have festivities to ward off evil spirits. In Finland these spirits of darkness wore goat skins and horns. In the beginning this creature didn't give presents but demanded them. The Christmas Goat was an ugly creature and frightened children. It is unclear how this personality was transformed into the benevolent Father Christmas. Nowadays the only remaining feature is the name. The process was probably a continuous amalgamation of many old folk customs and beliefs from varied sources. One can speak of a Christmas pageant tradition consisting of many personages with roles partly Christian, partly pagan: A white-bearded saint, the Devil, demons, and house gnomes. Nowadays the Joulupukki of Finland resembles the American Santa Claus. This reminds me of Black Peter and the Krampus, both being Santa’s “evil twin.” In many areas of the world, it is said that St. Nicholas has a companion. This companion is Krampus, though another version is Black Peter, or Zarte Piet or Zwarte Piet. Black Peter is associated with the Netherlands and has dark skin. Krampus isn't a man though. He has horns, goat hair, hooves, and claws. Just like a demon. His job is to accompany St. Nicholas and to warn and punish bad children. He is said to carry a basket on his back where he will place the bad children and take them to Hell to be tossed into the pit. Puts a frightening twist on “have you been naughty or nice!” Krampus originates from Krampen--meaning claw. Young men dressed up in goat skins and masks they spend two weeks making and on December 5th go out to scare all and carry out "birching," mainly on young girls.




So, besides a season of “good tidings,” it is also a time of terrible fear. So get your children in at night and make sure they are good. And do the same for yourself. For you never know if that shadow moving along the street past your front yard is just someone looking at your Christmas lights, or something else waiting to get you! Happy holidays.

Black Friday/Cyber Monday Sale

The Kindle of my urban fantasy, How the Vortex Changed My Life, joins other great genre ebooks in the Black Friday/Cyber Monday Sale November 23-28 at http://bit.ly/2BkXnAM . Don't forget to check all the great books and scroll down the page to enter the giveaway to WIN an AMAZON gift card! 
Christmas shopping was never this easy, and without driving to a nearby mall to do it.



Thursday, November 16, 2017

Supernatural Friday: What are Legends, Myths and Folklore?

I'm sorry I blogged for the past couple of weeks. Here is a post for Supernatural Friday, though one day early, as I have things to do on Friday.


Everyone participates in the reading of legends, myths, or folklore at some point in their lives. Who hasn’t read Greek mythology in school, or the folklore of Paul Bunyan, or tall tales of famous, real people like Calamity Jane or Johnny Appleseed? And what about urban legends? Urban legends are myths told in modern society, in cities or online, unlike many of the old tales set in the countryside. Even now, these get passed around in emails or are posted on the Internet—stories about the serial killer with the knife hanging around Lover’s Lane, Bloody Mary, the terrible smell under the bed in a hotel room or even the computer virus story that may have been true three years ago, but is still sent out as a warning.

A legend (Latin, legenda, "things to be read") is a narrative of human actions told about someone that existed in reality, once upon a time, but the true events have been twisted, making them more fascinating. Legend includes no happenings that are outside the realm of "possibility,” defined by a highly flexible set of parameters. These may include miracles that are perceived as actually having happened. There is the specific tradition of indoctrination where the legend arose, and in which the tale may be transformed over time, in order to keep it fresh, vital, and realistic. It is like that game you played with your classmates in school. You are part of a back to you, that story has changed drastically from what it began as.

A myth is a sacred or traditional story that concerns the origins of the world or how the world and the creatures in it came to be in their present form. Myths serves to unfold a part of the world view of a people, or explain a practice, belief, or natural phenomenon. Parables and allegories are myths. Nothing is supposed to be real about it at all, even if someone mentioned in the story is a real person, like some famous Virginians in this book. There are stories told about their habits or life that are not true. 

Folklore is the traditional beliefs, myths, tales, and practices of a people, transmitted orally. It is popular, but unfounded beliefs. Or, as Merriam-Webster says: “traditional customs, tales, sayings, dances, or art forms preserved among a people.”

The flavor of people and their culture, all interwove with day to day life when settlers came to the New World. They brought with them their folk tales and beliefs, and founded new ones in the new country. Some old stories mutated into different ones. There were older tales told by the Native Americans who were already living in Virginia before the white man came. Then, when slaves were brought to the New World, they brought with them tales from Africa and changed them, molding them to fit their new home. 

Today, in modern times, we continue this with urban legends. Who hasn’t heard of the killer with the hook in lover’s lane? Or who hasn’t said, “Bloody Mary” while staring into the mirror, hoping to make a ghost appear? There’s the hitchhiking woman dressed in an evening gown that is picked up and climbs into the back seat, giving directions to an address to the driver. Once they arrive at the house, though, the driver discovers that she has mysteriously disappeared. When he goes to the door, he is told that his hitchhiker is the daughter of the owner of the house, who had been killed just after she left a party several years before, never making it home. But stories like the hitchhiking ghost existed long before they ended up as urban legends. I know I’ve read stories when it was a buggy or wagon being driven, not a car. So how many urban legends started as folk tales by those who colonized America? 


Many of the legends and folk tales told by our ancestors have some type of moral attached to them. These may be warnings. Watch your womenfolk and children, so that marauding Indians could not kidnap them. Don’t dare approach some old woman living in the woods for a much needed potion to rid one of an unwanted pregnancy, for she may conjure a spell and convince you to crawl into her oven to be cooked. 

All of the above is the start of human storytelling, most likely around the campfire at night and told by the village shaman or official storyteller. What stories do you remember and still like to tell?



Author Appearance at Charlottesville Book Fair Saturday, November 18th



I will be selling and signing my books at the Charlottesville Book Fair this Saturday, November 18th, from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p..m. It will be held at the  City Space, 100 5th Street N.E., Charlottesville, Virgina 22902. Spectre Nightmares and Visitations will be on sale for $5.00, $2.50 off its normal price. And for every copy of How the Vortex Changed My Life sold and signed, the person will received a stuffed eyeball. Three have blue irises so you might get a Larry (character in the novel). 


The Market Street parking garage next to it at 550 Market Street E, will be free for customers to the event, so come and shop for signed copies of books for Christmas gifts. The forty participating authors live in Virginia but the scope of their books is global. In addition to local authors, three Virginia-based publishing companies will be at the fair. There will be music, children’s story times, and refreshments. Admission is free. 

PARTICIPATING AUTHORS
A M Carley
Allison Garcia
Amy Lee-Tai
Annabelle Kim
Betsy Ashton
Bryan Nowak
Carolyn O'Neal
Christine Maria Jahn
Cynthia Fain
Diane Fanning
Elizabeth Dowling Taylor
Elizabeth Van Zandt
J.M.R. Gaines
Jayne D'Alessandro Cox
Jean Young Kilby
Jenna Harte
Jim Salisbury
JoAnn Meaker
Joanne Liggan
Judith D. Howell
Keith Shovlin
Leslie Truex
Linda Salisbury
Louise M. Mitchell
M. K. B. Graham
Marc Boston
Margaret Locke
Milton Jones
Natalina Reis
P.A. Duncan
Pamela Evans
Pamela K. Kinney
Patsy Asuncion
Phyllis Koch-Sheras, PhD
PMH Atwater
Robert L. Haught
Sara M Robinson
Tamara Shoemaker
Taryn Noelle Kloeden
Zachary Tamer

PARTICIPATING PUBLISHERS
AOIS21 Media
Cedar Creek Publishing
Chenille Books
Tabby House

ENTERTAINMENT:
Gareth Phillips of January Zero
Rich Cohen

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Supernatural Friday: A Dark and Terrible Thing is Coming!





"A Dark and Terrible Thing is Coming!"


It’s coming,
Like a terrible thing
It’s scary,
Dark, and with a toothy grin.

So you better beware,
Have everything ready
Decorate appropriately,
For the end is near.

Just remember one thing,
It only comes but once a year
Halloween, costumed in orange and black,
A mask upon its gruesome face
Ringing your doorbell with persistence,
Innocent child or demonic being
Feed it candy, just to be safe.
Trick or Treat.



I hoped you enjoyed this poem I wrote, "A Dark and Terrible Thing Is Coming!" It's an original poem and copyrighted to me, so do share the link with friends, not the poem, please. Thank you.

Appearance on TV Talk Show, Virginia This Morning

I was interviewed because of my new book, How the Vortex Changed My Life, on Virginia This Morning TV talk show earlier today, October 30th. You can see the interview at Richmond author Pamela K. Kinney’s spooky area thriller

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Countdown to. . . HALLOWEEN! (Legend of Stingy Jack}



Halloween is fast approaching. People are purchasing pumpkins at the store or from a nearby pumpkin patch , so they can make jack-o-lanterns to peer out from porches and doorsteps in the United States and other parts of the world. Gourd-like orange fruits inscribed with ghoulish faces and illuminated by candles are a sure sign of the Halloween season. The practice of decorating “jack-o’-lanterns”—the name comes from an Irish folktale about a man named Stingy Jack—originated in Ireland, where large turnips and potatoes served as an early canvas. Irish immigrants brought the tradition to America, home of the pumpkin, and it became an integral part of Halloween festivities. 

Stingy Jack was a miserable, old drunk who loved playing tricks on anyone and everyone. One dark, Halloween night, Jack ran into the Devil himself in a local public house. Jack tricked the Devil by offering his soul in exchange for one last drink. The Devil quickly turned himself into a sixpence to pay the bartender, but Jack immediately snatched the coin and deposited it into his pocket, next to a silver cross that he was carrying. Thus, the Devil could not change himself back and Jack refused to allow the Devil to go free until the Devil had promised not to claim Jack's soul for ten years.

The Devil agreed, and ten years later Jack again came across the Devil while out walking on a country road. The Devil tried collecting what he was due, but Jack thinking quickly, said, "I'll go, but before I do, will you get me an apple from that tree?"

The Devil, thinking he had nothing to lose, jumped up into the tree to retrieve an apple. As soon as he did, Jack placed crosses all around the trunk of the tree, thus trapping the Devil once again. This time, Jack made the Devil promise that he would not take his soul when he finally died. Seeing no way around his predicament, the Devil grudgingly agreed.

When Stingy Jack eventually passed away several years later, he went to down to Hell to see the Devil, but the Devil kept the promise that had been made to Jack years earlier, and would not let him enter. 

Thinking, Ah, Heaven will surely let me in then!, he wandered up to the Gates of Heaven, but was refused entrance because of his life of drinking and because he had been so tight-fisted and deceitful.   

 
Jack went back to Hell to see the Devil.

"Where can I go?" asked Jack.

"Back to where you came from!" replied the Devil. "You doomed yourself to roam the earth, a restless soul who can find no rest ever." Lucifer tossed him a turnip and a ember straight from the fires of Hell itself. "Here, hollow out this turnip and place this ember inside. Use its light to find your way through eternity." 

And to this day, Jack wanders, never stopping in one place, a hauntingly lost soul, who learned you never ever really beat the Devil at his own game.





Friday, October 27, 2017

Supernatural Friday: Did a Black Cat Cross Your Path Today?



I own a black cat. Love her.  I can’t ever see her as devilish or evil. And yet, black cats are in the United States considered bad luck if one crosses your path. Plus they are associated with witches around Halloween. What started this for our furry black felines?




These obsidian felines were not always feared or a part of superstitious lore. Dating back as far as 3000 BC in Egypt, cats of all colors, including black ones, were held in high esteem. To kill one was considered a capital crime. One of their goddesses had a cat head, Bast.

The Nordic goddess, Freya was also a fierce warrior as shared with us by Ethan S. One of the many names by which she was known was the Mistress of the Cats, and it was said that the chariot in which she sat was drawn by a pairs of great cats with fur blacker than the midnight sky.



Then around medieval times, cats taken care of by old women who practiced healing and lived alone were considered familiars if the old woman (and sometimes man) were accused of witchcraft and convicted, burned at the stake. As for why particularly black cats, it seem to superstitious people, once the cat went out into the dark of night they appeared to disappear, except for their yellow or green eyes. The same would go for black dogs too. Of course, we know that the animal having black fur and the night being pitch black, well, yeah, they seemed to vanish.  Plus black cats born in May seemed to be strongly associated with witchcraft and were often drowned. It is bad luck to discuss family matters when a black cat is present, lest it be a witch in disguise.

Evil omens and harboring the ability to change into human shape to act as a spy or messenger for witches or demons are some of the mostly widely known legends of black cats (in the US). When settlers arrived in the Americas, they already had a deepening suspicion of anything associated with the devil. Due to the sisterhood of witch and black cat, anyone caught with a black cat was severely punished or even killed. Similar superstitions led people to kill black cats during the Middle Ages, increasing the rat population and the spread of the bubonic plague.



A legend in Wales tells about one black cat. When people arrived in this town that had been ravaged by the Black Plague, the only living creature they found was a single black cat. The black cat is now the traditional mascot of Kidwelly!

In Great Britain and in Ireland, black cats are considered good luck. One way this might be so, English monarch Charles I held a belief that when his treasured black cat passed, he claimed that his luck was gone and he was arrested the very next day and charged with high treason.  Also, in the UK, a black cat crossing your patch is a sign of good luck.

Some bad luck a black cat might deliver:

If you are driving and a black cat crosses in front of you, you should turn your car around or receive bad luck.

The gambling world holds the belief that as you are driving to a casino, if a black cat runs across your road or path, you should not go to the casino. Most players believe that black cats bring bad luck.

Crossing paths of a person is considered an omen of misfortune and death—kind of like the banshee’s scream heralds death for the person who hears it. Things are a bit more complicated in Germany. In Germany though, if a black cat crosses a person’s path from right to left, that is a bad omen, and yet, if done from left to right the cat is granting favorable times.

Pirates in the 19th Century believed that if a black cat walks towards someone, that person will have bad luck. But if it walks away from someone, that will bring good luck to that person. If a black cat walks onto a ship and then walks off it, the ship is doomed to sink on its next trip.

Sailors often sought out a black cat to become a ship’s cat, as it brought good luck. Fishermen’s wives kept black cats at home in the hope that they would be able to use their influence to protect their husbands while at sea.

In Japan, black manekineko (beckoning cats) are a wish for good health.

Dreaming of a black cat us considered lucky for the dreamer.
Black cats protect their human’s house from evil spirits, and it is said, take away the bad energy in the house.

From Scottish lore, a strange black cat on a porch brings prosperity to the owner.

It is believed that a lady who owns a black cat will have many suitors. So, for those looking for a boyfriend, get a black cat!



Not just black cats, but all:

Cats should never be bought with money. Doing so means they will be bad mousers. (Shelters looking to get their cats adopted, this might be a good ploy to use.)

And last, but not least, a story about a black cat by Edgar Allan Poe.   Black Cat