Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Author Appearance at Mysticon in Roanoke, Virginia This Weekend

You can catch me at Mysticon this weekend, from February 23-25th, at the Holiday Inn-Tanglewood4468 Starkey Road, SW, Roanoke, Virginia 24018.  Registration opens Friday at 1:00 P.M. (The line may begin forming at 12:30. Lines will not be allowed to form before 12:30) And the convention hasn't sold out, so you might be able to get a walk-in membership, even one day, but check the website to be sure. 

Programming Schedule


Monday, February 19, 2018

Author Interviews for Women of Horror Month 2018 February 24th and 25th

I will be interviewed at https://storyteller-skgregory.weebly.com/blog this Saturday, February 24, 2108 for Women of Horror Month (each day, from February 2nd to the last day, there will be a difference woman horror author interviewed, so, do check them all out). 

On the last Sunday of this month, February 25th, I'm the Women of Horror for that day at The Hazel Hedge Facebook page The Hazel Hedge . So, if you're on Facebook, check out my slot that day. And be sure to check it out everyday, as a different female author will be on it, all for Women of Horror Month.



Friday, February 16, 2018

Supernatural Friday: Feed the Ghosts!





In time for the Chinese New Year 2018. The first time I heard of this came from one of those paranormal shows. I can not remember which one, but this family that moved into this house in China as the father got transferred to a job there began having frightening occurrences. I think they had to ‘feed’ the ghosts to exorcise them.


Now ghosts are only souls of those who passed on. I assume they would be beyond the need for physical things, like eating. But in China and nearby Asian countries, it appears not. Hungry ghosts are believed to be those who in their former lives were given to jealousy or greed - and have, therefore, been reborn into one of the lower of the six realms of Buddhism. These creatures have voracious appetites, but are able to eat little or nothing.



The Hungry Ghost Festival, also known as the Zhongyuan Festival is one of four traditional festivals in China to worship ancestors. The other three are the Spring Festival, the Qingming Festival, and the Double Ninth Festival. The Taoist name for the Hungry Ghost Festival is the Zhongyuan Festival, and Buddhists call it the Yulanpen Festival. It is celebrated on August 20th of the seventh lunar month. The full moon is usually at this time. The Hungry Ghost Festival is one of the important days of Ghost Month. They believe that the ghosts of ancestors are let out of hell on the first day of the month was August 7th this year), so by the 15th day (when there is a full moon) they are very hungry. So people traditionally prepare a meal for them, burn incense or pray to them on Hungry Ghost Festival day. It is believed that their ancestors pay visits especially on this day of the full moon, and for two weeks of mundane activity afterwards, the phantoms are famished, tired, and perhaps angry, so the living must worship their ancestors. Not unlike Mexico’s Day of the Dead.



The ceremony is usually held at dusk, and people put the family’s ancestral tablets on a table, then burn incense and prepare food three times a day. Plates of food are put out for the ghosts on the table, and the people kowtow and pray in front of the memorial tablets in hopes that their ancestors bless them. People also feast on this night, and even leaving a place open at the table for their lost ancestors.

It is also thought that some of these wandering ghosts (also called ‘good brothers’) are believed to be the spirits of those with no relatives to venerate them after their death or those who had a bad death or did not receive a proper burial.

It is celebrated by some on the 14th day of the seventh lunar month or August 13th, in South China. The people in South China are said to have celebrated the festival a day earlier to avoid being caught by enemies at a time when there was a lot of warfare. In Jiangxi Province and Hunan Province, the Hungry Ghost Festival is considered to be more important than the Qingming Festival and the Double Ninth Festival.

  

Ghost Festival in Other Countries:

Vietnam: The Vietnamese view this festival as a time when spirits are pardoned and released from hell. Appeasement is made to homeless spirits by offering food. This festival occurs at the same time as the Buddhist Vu Lan. Vu Lan has become a time to honor and thank living mothers; those without living mothers attend services to pray for the dead.


Japan: Japanese Buddhists celebrate a similar festival called O-bon or Bon—the Day of the Dead. Over the centuries, this celebration evolved into a time of family reunions when those who live in the cities return to the towns of their ancestors to visit and clean family graves.


Ghosts in Taiwan: Cut off from the mainland since 1949, Taiwan gives the clearest picture of what Chinese spirituality was like before the rise of a Communist government zealous to remove religion and superstition. Ghost Month is a major spiritual event for the Taiwanese. Up to 90% of the population of Taiwan believes in ghosts. Dealing with ghosts is big business there. Experts in the afterlife advise distressed clients on how to appease angry ancestors. Ghost-busting in Taiwan isn’t comedy—it is serious business. Taiwanese do their best to protect themselves from ghost-encounters, avoiding mountains and swimming at night or wearing a temple talisman with a protective prayer.

There are still hauntings by ghosts reported though. One woman tells of the ghost of her mother who visits her in the middle of the night, demanding money. Another concerns a teenager who claims a ghost has slept on him so that he couldn’t move. He now keeps his windows and doors locked all year to keep out the ghosts. Though anything that can walk through walls, well…

The seventh month is the scariest month of the year for the Chinese, due to the ghosts being released from hell. These evil ghosts go looking for entertainment. Many people avoid dangerous activities at night such as swimming (because it is said ghosts inhabit water) or being out alone. It is thought that the ghosts may attack their enemies or be angry or malicious. Because of fear of ghosts, many activities are curtailed during Ghost Month. Whistling is avoided as it will draw ghosts to one’s home. Events such as traveling, moving to a new home, medical procedures, or weddings are scheduled for other months; special plans and business deals are avoided at this time.

The Chinese have certain traditions what to do about the situation on the first, 14th, 15th, and also on the last day of the seventh lunar month. To fight off the ghosts, people burn fake paper money outside of their homes, businesses, along the sides of roads, or in fields on the first day, or even head to temples to do this. There is the explanation that the ghosts need money to use. They light incense and may make sacrifices of food, to appease these hungry, unhappy ghosts. There is the thought that the ghosts will not bring bad luck after eating their sacrifices. Red painted paper lanterns are found everywhere, including business and residential areas. Street ceremonies, market ceremonies, and temple ceremonies are held. During street and market ceremonies, people gather to celebrate the festival. For the temple ceremonies, monks in temples organize the festive activities. 

The end of ghost month falls on the last day of the seventh lunar month. This year it is September 4th. The last day of the month is when the gates of hell are closed up again. People celebrate and observe this day in various ways. Many burn more paper money and clothing so that the ghosts can use them in their society in hell. Pictures and tablets of ancestors may be put away back on the shelves or hung back on the walls. In order to encourage the ghosts to go, Taoist monks chant to make them leave. 

A common tradition that many families participate in is the floating of river lanterns. Colorful lanterns are made out of wood and paper. Families write their ancestors’ names on the lanterns. A floating river lantern is believed to take or guide those ghosts. On the night of the festival, people place paper boats with the paper lanterns in the river. The living watches the boats as they float away. Like the River Styx in Greek mythology, it is hope the dead follow the lanterns back to the gates of Hell.

How long ago in history has this tradition began?  It is interesting that cultures in Asia all the way from India to Cambodia to Japan share similar beliefs. These traditions seem to date from before Buddha was alive; more ancient folk religions seem to cover the entire area. Taoism is the indigenous religion of China where a lot of the ancient folk religion is incorporated. According to Taoist records, the gates of hell are opened and hungry ghosts are released to find food or to take revenge on those who have behaved badly in the seventh lunar month. The Taoists chant together to free the ghosts. Another story talks about how the King Yama opens the gates of hell on the Hungry Ghost Festival and allows a few wild ghosts to enjoy sacrifice on the first day of the seventh lunar month. The gates are closed on the last day of that month, where the wild, hungry ghosts return to hell. Some Chinese believe that the gates of heaven are also opened during this month, and they worship their ancestors from heaven. 



Trends for the Future:

Taiwan: Globalization, education, and modern technology have caused some erosion in traditional Chinese religion, though Taiwanese belief in the ghost world has seen no such decline. There are many Taiwanese youth are becoming disillusioned with modern materialism and are returning to traditional spiritual beliefs.


China: Not only are the Taiwanese holding onto traditional Chinese religion, even taking it back to the mainland. 

 

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

ON Speculative Fiction Cantina This Friday, February 16, 2018!

I will be reading from my urban fantasy novel, How the Vortex Changed My Life this Friday, February 16, 2018 at the blogradio show, Speculative Fiction Cantina. I'm sharing the hour with another author, Judith Howell.

You can listen at Speculative Fiction Cantina The times  are 6:00-7:00 p.m. Eastern, 5:00-6:00 p.m. Central, 4:00-5:00 p.m. Mountain, and 3:00-4:00 p.m. Pacific. And you can call in to speak with the host at (347) 945-7246 with any questions that evening.



Saturday, February 10, 2018

Supernatural Friday: Scary Movies to Make Your Heart Stop for Valentines Day



Every year on February 14th, most people exchange cards, candy, gifts or flowers with their special “valentine.” Today is Valentine’s Day. This day is named for a Christian martyr and dates back to the 5th century, but has origins in the Roman holiday Lupercalia. Celebrated at the ides of February, or February 15, Lupercalia was a fertility festival dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture. It was also dedicated to the Roman founders Romulus and Remus—those twins that fed at the teats of a she-wolf.




To begin the festival, members of the Luperci, an order of Roman priests, would gather at a sacred cave where the infants Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome, were believed to have been cared for by a she-wolf or lupa. The priests would sacrifice a goat, for fertility, and a dog, for purification. They would then strip the goat’s hide into strips, dip them into the sacrificial blood and take to the streets, gently slapping both women and crop fields with the goat hide. Far from being fearful, Roman women welcomed the touch of the hides because it was believed to make them more fertile in the coming year. Later in the day, according to legend, all the young women in the city would place their names in a big urn. The city’s bachelors would each choose a name and become paired for the year with his chosen woman. These matches often ended in marriage.




Cupid is the god of desire, erotic love, attraction and affection in classical mythology. He is often portrayed as the son of the love goddess Venus, and is known in Latin also as Amor ("Love"). His Greek counterpart is Eros.  Eros appears in Classical Greek art as a slender and winged youth, But in the Hellenistic period he became more and more portrayed as chubby boy, with the bow and arrow to represent uncontrollable desire.

Cupid is a minor character in myths who serves mostly to set the plot in motion. The only time he is a main character is in the tale of Cupid and Psyche, when wounded by his own weapons he experiences the ordeal of love.

So what can be scary about a day dedicated to love?  Well, how about some horror flicks you can watch with your horror honey?

My Bloody Valentine (1981): A decades-old folk tale surrounding a deranged murderer killing those who celebrate Valentine's Day turns out to be true to legend when a group defies the killer's order and people start turning up dead.

My Bloody Valentine (2009): One of my favorite actors from the TV show, Supernatural, Jensen Ackles, is in this film: Tom returns to his hometown on the tenth anniversary of the Valentine's night massacre that claimed the lives of 22 people. Instead of a homecoming, Tom finds himself suspected of committing the murders, and it seems like his old flame is the only one that believes he's innocent.

Valentine (2001): Five women are stalked by an unknown assailant while preparing for Valentine's Day.

Lover's Lane (1999): A man with a hook for a hand who committed a series of murders thirteen years ago begins to hunt down his victims' children.

X-Ray--Original Title: Hospital Massacre (1981): While receiving a routine check-up, a beautiful woman is stalked by a maniac out to avenge a childhood Valentine's Day 
humiliation.

Bride of Frankenstein (1935): Mary Shelley reveals the main characters of her novel survived: Dr. Frankenstein, goaded by an even madder scientist, builds his monster a mate. (It is sort of a love story).

The Shape of Water (2017): In theaters now and Oscar nominated, including Best Picture: At a top secret research facility in the 1960s, a lonely janitor forms a unique relationship with an amphibious creature that is being held in captivity.

Creature From the Black Lagoon--since Shape of Water reminded me of the Creature and his fascination for a human woman in the movie (1954): A strange prehistoric beast lurks in the depths of the Amazonian jungle. A group of scientists try to capture the animal and bring it back to civilization for study.

Cat People (1942): An American man marries a Serbian immigrant who fears that she will turn into the cat person of her homeland's fables if they are intimate together.

Cat People--Remake (1982): More erotic than the original. A young woman's sexual awakening brings horror when she discovers her urges transform her into a monstrous black leopard.

A Chinese Ghost Story (1987): This Hong Kong period piece tells the tale of love between a human and a ghost enslaved by a wicked tree demon.

Ghost (1990): After a young man is murdered, his spirit stays behind to warn his lover of impending danger, with the help of a reluctant psychic.

I Will Follow You Into the Dark (2012): A woman reeling from the death of her parents becomes attached to an alluring man whose sudden disappearance sends her and her friends into a haunted high-rise to find him.

Spring (2014): A young man in a personal tailspin flees from US to Italy, where he sparks up a romance with a woman harboring a dark, primordial secret.

Warm Bodies (2013): After a highly unusual zombie saves a still-living girl from an attack, the two form a relationship that sets in motion events that might transform the entire lifeless world.

Wolf (1994): Publisher Will Randall becomes a werewolf and has to fight to keep his job. The movie is also the antithesis of a young adult novel's adolescent love story. Wolf finds love with a more adult pairing: Michelle Pfeiffer and a lycanthropic Jack Nicholson.

The Phantom of the Opera (1925): A mad, disfigured composer seeks love with a lovely young opera singer. No, not the musical, but the first one on film.

Sunday, February 04, 2018

Supernatural Friday: Fear the Sea



You heard of mermaids and mermen. You heard of selkies. Have you ever heard of the sorcerous finmen? Few people have. But yet, they are beings of the sea as are mermaids, mermen and selkies. In fact, in stories told, it is said the Finwike began life as a mermaid.

Their myth comes from the Orkney Islands. The story goes that they are mistrusted by mortals and have magic. That they have unparallel boating skills, as well power over storm and sea. These beings are also noted shapeshifters. 

Unlike the selkies (as in some tales), there were times they could come ashore. The Finfolk were truly amphibious. The Finfolk led a nomadic lifestyle, but spent long Orkney winters in the luxury of Finfolkaheem, a majestic city of unknown location, spposed to be at the bottom of the sea. The tales of storytellers tell that this fantastic undersea kingdom has  massive crystal halls and ornate gardens of multi-coloured seaweed. Lit by the phosphorescent glow of the sea, Finfolkaheem was decorated with swathes of draped curtains whose colours shifted like the ever-changing shades of the "Merry Dancers" - the Aurora Borealis. Towers of glistening white coral spiralled upwards, encrusted with pearls and precious gemstones. The kingdom was so rich that giant pearls were littered everywhere, often ground up by the merfolk to provide the powder that was scattered over the mermaids' tails to give them their sparkling sheen. In the waters surrounding Finfolkaheem, the Finfolk raised sea-cattle and magical sea-horses. Like the true gentry of their underwater world, they herded whales - from which they extracted milk - and, mounted on their aquatic steeds, would often hunt the animals of the sea using otters in place of dogs.
During summertime, the Finfolk returned to Orkney. It is there that they took up residence on their magical island home, Hildaland - one of Orkney's magical vanishing islands. it has been said that Hildaland was later taken from the Finfolk and renamed Eynhallow. 

Two distinct pf these kind of fairyfolk are within the ranks of the Finfolk - the Finman and the Finwife. Though tales of the Finmen  make up most of the bulk of the folklore and are fairly standard in their descriptions of the gloomy creatures. 
Like fairies of the land on the Orkney Islands, they also steral away mortals. Once caught, they spirit away their captives and transport them to their hidden island homes. It in these places that the unfortunate mortals are forced to remain for the rest of their days, usually as wife or husband of one of the Finfolk. 


Finwife:
While the Finman actively shunns contact with mortals - unless needs to for his purpose - the Finwife was more involved with her human neighbours. As a child of the Finfolk, the Finwife begins life as a mermaid -  beautiful with long, glistening fish tail. If the young mermaid marries a Finman - a fate that awaited her if she did not acquire a mortal huband - she became uglier an d uglier, eventually becoming a haggard Finwife. 

Tradition dictates that these Finwives went to shore and used her magic to earn precious silver for her husband. Once settled on land, she told her neighbours she was of Caithness origin - in other words not Orcadian. She pretended to earn a living by spinning and knitting. Also the Finwife was renowned for her skill in curing diseases in men and cattle, so it did not take long for her to become an invaluable member of the community. After that happened,  she began to practice her "infernal arts.",Meanwhile, she sent the silver coins she earned back to her avaricious husband beneath the waves. If the supply of "white metal" came sparingly or was delayed at any time, the unfortunate Finwife could expect a visit from her Finman husband. She did not want this, for when he came he would beat her so bad that the witch became confined to bed for days. A curious parallel to witch tales from other cultures is that the Finwife was said to keep a black cat, but there the similarity ends, as the Finwife's cat had the ability to transform into a fish so it could carry messages between its mistress and her relatives in Finfolkaheem.


Finman:

All Orkney Finmen carried the appearance of a well-made man, tall, dark, thin and sinewy, but with a stern, gloomy face. His rowing skills were unparalleled, making it easy for him to cross from Orkney to Norway, or Iceland, in seven "warts", or strokes, of the oar. 

They were often seen rowing in a small boat, without  a sail. The Finmen didn't need one, for they used their powerful magic to propel their boats. This magic also allowed the Finman to turn his vessel invisible, or even surround it with a fleet of phantom boats. 

Very territorial, the Finfolk took great exception to humans trespassing, or fishing, in their waters. Whenever a mortal fisherman dared enter their domain, the Finmen seized the man's line and kept hold of it until the line broke. Without a hook and sinker, the fisherman couldn't earn a living until new tackle was acquired. Other times, the Finmen waited until the fisherman had returned home and had put his boat to anchor. They slip off the anchor stone, and the vessel drifted free to the perils of tide and current. 
 In the dead of night, marauding Finmen wreaked extreme vengeance on fishermen, too. They either smashed the oars of the fisherman's boat or made a hole in the vessel's bottom.  These would cost the impertinent fisherman his life at a later date. What the firshermen did was cut a cross into the line sinker and marked with chalk or tar on the hull of the boat, ensuring that no Finman would come within half a mile.Another way to shake a pursuing Finman would be by throwing a silver coin in his general direction. Because of their passion for silver, the pursuer gave up the chase so he could retrieve the precious coin. This silver obsession meant that the Finmen were often seen to enter the service of a human, but more often they were the ones who hired the mortals.No doubt, the Finfolk's malevolent influence could have been used to explain away the many disappearances and deaths at sea. Christianity is blamed for the disappearance of Finfolk stories. Though the influence of the Finman and his kin was feared right through until at least the end of the nineteenth century.

Author Reading Feb. 16th on Speculative Fiction Cantina Blogradio

I will be reading from my urban fantasy novel, How the Vortex Changed My Life (#8 runner up of the Top 10 in the Science Fiction/Fantasy poll of P&E Readers Poll 2017) during one of the half hours of the blogradio show, Speculative Fiction Cantina on February 16, 2018. The time of the show is 6:00-7:00 P.M. EST, with other time zones being at Central: 5:00 P.M.Mountain: 4:00 P.M., and Pacific: 3:00 P.M. Author Judith Howell is the other author reading from her novel during that hour also.  The link is here.  





Sunday, January 28, 2018

Supernatural Friday: History of Witchcraft



The word ‘Witchcraft’ has been derived from the word ‘Wicca’ meaning ‘the wise one’. Witchcraft has been seen as a magical phenomenon, a pagan worship or religion, sorcery, devil worship, and others, at different periods in our world history.

Thousands of years ago, people lived much more primitive lives than we have in our technological society today.  Without the luxury of modern medicine and treatments, when a person was sick, ill or in pain there was little that could be done about it.  Becoming ill was much more dangerous in those ancient days, and the ramifications of any sickness were frequently much more serious.  But some women and even men learned the value of healing herbs, and other types of homeopathic treatments.  These people were actually very wise when it came to their knowledge of herbal remedies.  These astute women, skilled in the art of natural medicine, also sometimes functioned as midwives and assisted in the delivery of babies, using various plant-based medicines to ease the pain and suffering experienced during childbirth.

The earliest records of the concept and practice of witchcraft can be traced to the early days of humankind when witchcraft was seen as magical a phenomenon that was invoked for magical rites which ensured good luck, protection against diseases, and other reasons.

However, it was not until 1000 AD that the practice of Witchcraft and witches invoked the wrath of priests, Christianity, and members of the society. Witchcraft, seen as a religion of the ancient and traditional pagan religion which worships the feminine, earthly, and masculine aspects of God, was considered as anti-Christian and a heresy.

Held to be against the declarations and beliefs of the Church, witches were considered as evil, making pacts and connections with the Devil. It was even believed that witches engaged in practices such as flying, invisibility, killing, taming black wolves and cats to spy on people, and others.  The belief in the existence of witches was strengthened particularly after Pope Innocent VIII issued a declaration in the 1498 confirming their existence in society, and inquisition increased, although in 1200, killing of witches had already become authorized by Pope Gregory IX. The Inquisition thus began after 1200 on orders of the Church to discover the witches or heretics who were believed to be evil and against the Church. Full-fledged killing of witches was, however, recorded in the 1500s and 1600s.  The first crusade against witches was held in 1022 AD when a witch was burned to death.

In Salem in 1692, 150 people were tried as suspects of practicing witchcraft. Unlike Europe, where those tried and convicted of witchcraft (those that survived being piled on with the increasing weight of stones or dunked in a river to see if they swam or sank), in Salem, those convicted of witchcraft and executed, were done so by hanging.

People suspected as witches were usually burned at stakes, and those pleading their innocence were either stoned to death or even sometimes thrown in water to prove their innocence. Witches usually faced severe and painful deaths or punishments.


Unlike the cases in Salem, Massachusetts, where women had been accused unjustly and declared guilty, then hung, another commonwealth, Virginia handled the witchcraft thing much better. To curb runaway charges of witchcraft like in New England, the Virginia General Assembly passed in 1662, “An Act for Punishment of Scandalous Persons.” It stated that women who acted peculiar and scandalous and caused their husbands to bring suits against those accusing their wives of witchcraft, after judgment had been passed, the woman would be punished by ducking. If the slander was enormous, the damages were adjusted at a greater amount then five hundred pounds of tobacco.

So except for Witches are as much a part of Virginia’s history and folklore as anywhere else. There were homes in Virginia that have witch doors—crosses carved on the paneled doors to keep the witches away—and people made witch bottles to protect them against witches—though the bottles were used mainly in the Tidewater area. An Indian idol, “Okee,” was considered to be a “devil-witch” by John Smith himself after the colonists landed at Jamestown and settled it. In 1654, according to author and historian Richard Beale Davis, there was a conviction of witchcraft in Virginia that resulted in an execution on a ship bound for Jamestown. This would have been long before the witchcraft trials at Salem. At that time, witches were believed to conjure up storms at sea, along with causing widespread illness among the passengers. When a severe storm happened and threatened the vessel commanded by Captain Bennett, he ordered the death of a woman named Catherine Grady, all because she was a “witch at sea.”

Today, no one is hung or burned at the stake for witchcraft. In the United States people can do whatever religion they want to believe in, long as they don’t do harm to others. We’ve came a long way from our tribal ancestors who sat around a campfire or a bonfire and huddled in fears of evil spirits, demons and witches.