Friday, December 30, 2011

Supernatural Friday: New Year’s Superstitions

The New Year is more than saying goodbye to the old year and hello to the new one. There are superstitions attached to this time of the year. Of course, 2012 has something special, with the Mayan calendar predicting the end of the world.

But let’s talk about normal legends and myths. Open all doors at midnight, to let the old year escape without being stopped. Celebrate at midnight with as much noise as possible, for it’s not just for celebration, but to chase bad spirits away. Widespread superstition has it said that the Devil and other evil spirits hate the din and will run away. Church bells on a wedding day are rung originally for the same reason.

A kiss at midnight with those close to us and whom we hold in affection starts the New Year off right by making sure ties and affections stay the next year. If no kiss is exchanged, it will mean a year of coldness.

Bills must be paid off before midnight chimes to make sure the household does not start off in debt. Same goes for personal debt, as they must be settled before January 1 also.

It is said that the first person to enter your home after the New Year is the one who will influence how your year will go. It is best if the man comes bearing gifts in either silver coin, a lump of coal, a sprig of evergreen, some salt or a bit of bread. And he should be dark-hair, tall and good-looking to make it a good year. But if he’s a red-haired or a blond, well, he will bring nothing but a year of bad luck. As for a female first guest, she should be chased away before disaster hits the household. Hold the women off until a man cross your threshold. The first footer should knock and be let in, but never use a key to enter, even if he lives there. Then after he drops off his gifts and greets those within the walls, he should then exit by another door than the one he entered by.

Larders must be stocked and money in everyone’s wallet to guarantee prosperity.

Another thing about first footers, they can not have flat feet, be cross-eyed, or have eyebrows that meet in the middle (can this last one be a werewolf thing too, since a werewolf can be identified by having brows like this?).

Another thing in regarding to good/bad luck for the New Year, is not to take anything out the first day, not even the garbage. If have presents, don’t even bring them in, but leave in the car until the second. This means don’t shake a rug out or take out empties. Some people say that it’s okay to take something out, long as something else was brought in first, most likely a first footer.

Down South, people make black-eyed peas to serve New Year’s Day to get good luck and financial good fortune, especially to the diner. Other foods such as ham hocks, cabbage, and collard greens can be added, but there must be black-eyed peas as the key ingredient.

Other foods considered lucky are lentil soup (due to looking like coins), pork (pigs root forward while poultry scratches backwards and a cow stands still), and sauerkraut (I grew up with a Czechoslovakian mother, so I love this, as my husband is half Polish!). Definitely do not eat chicken or turkey the first day, since the birds scratch backwards, this means the diners will scratch in the dirt all year (meaning poverty).

Do a token amount of what you do at work (even if you’re off from your job and not near it even) on January 1st, but a small amount is enough, as to engage in a serious project that day is considered bad luck. Don’t even do your laundry or even wash dishes, as this may wash away you or your family members in the home (death) during the coming year.

Wear something new January 1st, to insure you receive more new garments during the year. Do not pay back loans or lend money or other precious items on the first day of the New Year, otherwise you’ll be paying out all year. Avoid crying too. That will mean that will be the tone of the next twelve months and do not, I stress, do not break anything the First, otherwise the rest of the year will a life of wreckage.

So far, sounds like your first day might be best spent in bed after letting in that dark-haired man. But you need to get up to examine the weather that first day. Yes, even the weather can make things bad or good. Like if the wind comes from the south, times ahead will be prosperous times and great weather for all year. But if the wind comes from the north, that means bad weather all year. Wind from the east brings famine and calamities with it while from the west, it brings milk and fish a-plenty, but will also see the death of an important person. No wind, a joyous and prosperous year!

As for babies born on January 1, they are insured luck always.

Now, what will you do to insure good luck for 2012? Or do you don't even care?

Wednesday, December 28, 2011


This is  Flush Hotel in South Korea. Would you like to stay at this strange place shaped like a toilet seat?

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Supernatural Friday: A Season of Fear and Superstition, Part 2: By Midnight

Here is Part 2 of A Season of Fear and Superstition.  An original short story of mine, set on Christmas Eve, "By Midnight."   Merry Christmas reading. . .

By Midnight (Copyright by Pamela K. Kinney)

You better watch out, you better not cr. . . .

A strange jabbering woke her from her nightmare. Mrs. Piers sat up and switched on the lamp on the bedstead by her bed. Light flowed over her and the bed, banishing the darkness back to corners of her bedroom. The only other light came from moonbeams stretching fingers through the glass of the window .

Nothing. Must have been a revenant from the nightmare. She stared at the clock. Shoot! She’d overslept. The woman leaped out of bed, showered, and dressed in her custodial uniform.

It was Christmas Eve, but that didn’t matter, as she was scheduled to work tonight. It had proven to be the only way to get Christmas Day and night off. As she walked into the eat-in kitchen, her daughter, Jenny, brought their dinner, bowls of chicken noodle soup, to the table. Both sat and began to eat, though Jenny only ate a few spoonfuls of soup.

Mrs. Piers lost her husband a year ago and had to go to work to pay the mortgage on the house, besides to support both her and Jenny. Luckily, she saw the ad for someone to clean the local hospital during third shift and when she applied, she got it. That meant leaving her daughter alone in the house at night. A pretty teenage girl going through changes due to puberty could get into trouble, least what she had heard.

So far, nothing happened. Knock on wood.

Tonight though was Christmas Eve. Though Jenny promised she would go to bed early after watching It's A Wonderful Life on TV, as she admitted to feeling ill all day. Still, Mrs. Piers felt uneasy. Jenny handed Mrs. Piers her purse and bagged lunch, and followed her mother to the front door.

Mrs. Piers said, “I feel uneasy about leaving you alone tonight. Don’t know why either.”

“’Night, Mom.” Jenny threw open the door. “I’ll make sure the place is locked up tight, besides, I’m sixteen! Geesh!” She shook her head. “What do you think could happen?”

Mrs. Piers reminded her. “There have been those people that vanished.”

The girl snorted. “That was last Christmas and they were homeless people that disappeared from a shelter downtown, not teenagers. There’s been nothing since. The police even said they think the men just snuck out of the building and took off for parts unknown.”

Mrs. Piers needed to get to work, so she stepped out into the night. The moon and a few stars sparkled up in the black velvet of the sky. Many houses had Christmas lights and other decorations. The whole street was lit up. Some people strolled along the neighborhood, only stopping to view the lights. Everything looked innocent and Christmasy. Nothing scary.

She whistled to the Christmas music that sang from the radio as she drove to the hospital.


As Jenny turned to go back indoors, a tease of jabbering reached her from the darkened area beneath a tree on the side of their home. A squirrel? This late though? With a shrug as she heard nothing further, Jenny locked the door and ambled into the living room. Raps resounded on the glass of the sliding doors that led to the back yard. Her friends and the guys they brought were here. Thank God, her mother had left already. Unlocking, she let in two girls and three boys. They strolled past her into the house, carrying bags of snacks and drinks, along with stuff for entertainment. Jenny shut the door and stared as they began to set up. One of the boys put two bags in the living room, while Lisa and other set bags on the kitchen counter and began taking things out. Things like bags of chips, cans of nuts and microwave popcorn overflowed the counter. Jenny thought back to the last day of school, just before Christmas vacation.

Jenny’s friends, Lisa and Debbie, had approached her as she was taking things out of her locker at school and jamming it all into her bookbag.

“Hey,” said Lisa, leaning a shoulder against the ,locker next to Jenny’s. “Your mother works all night—right?”

Jenny slammed the door on her locker and slung her bookbag over one shoulder. “Yeah, but you knew that. So?”

Debbie grinned. “Well, our parents will be out at a party that night until two o’clock. Be kinda cool to have a party without adults staring over our shoulders. There are these three guys—”

Jenny finished for her, “and you two have the hots for two of them. Guess the third was dug up for me? An incentive to have the party at my house?”

Lisa shrugged. “Well, your mom is gone all night—”

Jenny sighed. The other girls looked at her. She nodded. “I don’t feel good about this, but all right.” She shook a finger. “Not all night, okay. Just ‘til midnight.”

Lisa grinned. “Of course, we don’t want to do it all night. Christmas is the next day and we want to be rested for that. Besides our parents will be home by 2 a. m., so midnight is great.”

Jenny had been worried about agreeing then. Wore, all day today, she had not been feeling good. Couldn’t eat and stayed in her room most of the day, as her stomach twisted into tight knots. Least the need to barf had calmed down. It was only until midnight. She could handle that. Surely?

She chided herself. It’s not as if there would be alcohol. . . One of the boys, a tall, gangling one, laughed as he lifted a six-pack of beer out of a grocery bag. Another boy, dressed all in black and sporting earrings in his big ears, nose, and even his lower lip, laughed too, braying like a donkey.

Jenny’s stomach boiled as she fought not to run to the bathroom. She stomped over to Lisa and Debbie who were opening packages of cookies and bags of chips as they gossiped.

She grabbed Lisa’s arm, snarling. “You didn’t say there would be alcohol!”

Lisa glanced with disinterest as the boy withdrew another six-pack of beer. “Wellllll. . .I never said there wouldn’t be. John’s adult brother got them for him at the liquor store tonight.”

Debbie piped up. “It’s not like we’ll all get drunk on twelve bottles of beer, Jenny.”

Jenny blinked. Debbie wasn’t the brightest girl in town. Remembering the incident with Debbie and the horse last year, well, not even in the whole world either.

She sighed. “All right, but be forewarned, first time anyone starts to act drunk, the party is over and everyone goes home.”

Lisa shrugged a shoulder. “Sure. That’s doable.”

Lisa popped in a DVD of a Christmas comedy she brought and both she and Debbie settled on the couch, a boy each nestled against them. Lisa got John, who was the tall, gangling type with the beer, while Debbie got Roy, plump and dumb. Jenny ended up with Spider on the floor. Spider was the goth who brayed like a mule earlier. She had thumped down in the chair that matched the couch, but Spider had slithered in like a snake about to snatch its next victim, sliding his arms round her so Jenny got down on the floor. Unfortunately, so did Spider, looping an arm over her shoulders.

“You know why they call me Spider?” he whispered into her ear. “It’s like I got eight arms.”

It felt like he had eight hands too. They slid up and down her body, searching for permanent places to nest. Like her breasts, and other unmentionable spots.

She hissed in his ear, digging an elbow into his ribs. “Hands to yourself. I don’t know you enough for you to do that. Honestly, in my opinion, that will be never ever. Understand?”

He glowered as he grabbed the bottle of beer beside him. “Your friends didn’t say you be a class A bitch.”

He took a swig of beer and ignored her after that, staring at the television. Which was fine with her. Jenny rose to her feet and headed for the kitchen to get herself a bottle of soda and some snacks.

Alone, she opened the fridge and peeked in when she heard a sound. Closing the door, she listened and heard it again. It sounded like someone saying something, except so slow that Jenny couldn’t catch the words. It came from the back of the house. Jenny stared down the shadow-dark hallway. A chill skittered up her spine. The only people in the house were her and her guests.

The jabbering grew a little louder. Now, it sounded like there was a crowd back in wither hers or her mother’s bedroom.

She jumped when something touched her shoulder. Her pounding heart slowed when she realized it was Spider. His bottle hanging limp from his fingers, the boy’s brow knitted together.

“What’s going on?” He peered down the hall. “I thought we were the only people tonight? Your mother working, right?”

Jenny rubbed her arms with her hands, as she felt cold. “She is. We are.”

“Hey, what’s going on? Sneaking off to do some neckin’?” Lisa and Debbie plus their guys joined them.

Spider pointed with the neck of his now empty bottle at the hallway. “No. Doesn’t that sound like people are talking back there?”

Debbie bit her lip. “Really?” She turned to Jenny. “Thought you said your mom was at work.”

Jenny spat out. “She is. We’re supposed to be the only living bodies in the house tonight.”

Debbie giggled. “Cool. Maybe it’s ghosts.”

Lisa snorted. “There are no such things as ghosts, dummy. It’s just Jenny playing a trick on us.” She merged with the darkness as she walked down the hallway. “I’ll prove it. Hey, John, coming?”

John asked, “You sure you want me? I mean, I doubt there’s anything back there.” He gave Spider a nasty glance. “Spider watches too many horror flicks, you ask me.” But when Lisa told him to come with her, he hustled to join her..

Jenny heard the rustling of their clothing, their footsteps barely audible on the carpeted floor. All sound quiet as even the voices stopped. She back stepped until she found herself against Spider’s front. His odor flowed over her. He stunk of sweat, some male cologne and . . . . fear? How would she know what fear smelled like?

Lisa called out. “Hey, there’s a glow coming from a bedroom back here. It looks like—“

Silence. Nothing from her or John.

Debbie said, “Lisa? Lisa?” Roy yelled, “Yo, John?”

Lisa didn’t answer. John neither.

More chills skittered along Jenny’s nerves. She was ready to turn around and get her cell lying on the coffee table in the living room, then dial 911. But she didn’t as Debbie, along with Roy and Spider tiptoed to where Lisa and John were. Spider hadn’t wanted to, but Roy dug his fingers into the thinner boy’s shoulder and forced him along.

Jenny called out. “Come back. I’m going to call the—“

Suddenly, screams and growls rent the air. Frightened, and not even looking back, Jenny bolted, snatching her cell phone and the house keys. She ran out of the house, not even shutting the door behind her.

Breathing heavy, she stopped in the street and stared back at the looming darkness of the open doorway. Nothing surged out of it, not the others or whatever had gotten them. With a shaking hand, she called her mother at the hospital. After she got off the phone, she felt pain wash over her. Smells rushed at her. Iron-like, like when there was bleeding. She drooled. Confused and still in agony too, she leaned against a car parked on the street. Until she realized it was Lisa’s car, then she stumbled across the street. She stayed there.

Thirty minutes later her mother drove up and after parking the car on the street, joined Jenny who hugged her, crying. “Mom, something’s in the house, and it got Lisa and Debbie.”

Her mother patted her back. “Did you allow them in the house?”

Jenny sniffed. “Yeah. I allowed them and three guys to have a party of sorts at our house. Now something has got them and it’s my fault.”

Her mother nodded. “It is, Jenny. Mine too.”

Jenny looked at her mother and noticed how strange her face looked in the light of the moon. A kind of blurring. “What do you mean?”

“After your father died, I was called back to my people. But they wouldn’t allow you to come with me. I couldn’t leave you. Oh no. They said you’re a halfling. That you couldn’t survive in my world. But I noticed you had some of my powers, something most Halflings never inherited from their few parent. So staying here, I had to get a job to support us, but still worried about leaving you alone as you were entering puberty and with puberty for a fey, the changes come. Some of my people came to stay with us.”

Jenny backed out of her mother’s arms. “What do you mean? I never saw anyone but us in the house since daddy died. And what’s a fey?”

Her mother sighed. “That’s because of the glamour. Like what I use to keep me appearing human to humans, like your father. A fey is another word for what humans call fairies. I am part of one race of the Sidhe. We can change shape with will, besides having other powers.”

Jenny saw with shock as her mother’s form shorted out like a television reception. Where her mother had stood, a tall, pale being with shimmering hair that fell to its feet towered over her. It gave a parody of a smile, revealing a mouthful of cannibal sharp fangs. “I saw your father from a distance when he was hiking with friends in the mountains and I fell in love with him. So I stepped from my world into his, changed my looks, and made him fall in love with me. I don’t need to feed most of the year on what my kind subsist on normally, but on Christmas Eve, before midnight, the hunger calls to me. So I would sneak out to hunt my prey as your father slept deeply due to enchantment. It grew worse when I became pregnant with you. I had to feed for two then.”

Her mother snatched her up and they flew to the house, entering. The door slammed shut behind them without a sound. Jenny was let go and she found herself standing over Spider. A crowd of beings like her mother surrounded them, blood on their lipless mouths and bare skin. Her mother pointed at the scared boy.

“You’re half fey, dear, and you must eat the right food tonight to survive. Just as our relatives had gnawed on your friends. Just as I fed on a dying person at the hospital earlier tonight. Your magic is growing stronger each day and if you don’t feast on human flesh before the first strike of midnight, you will burn up. Don’t you feel the heat in you now? It’s our particular type of fairies’ Christmas curse.”

Jenny did. It felt like a roaring fire centered in her. It hurt. She stared down at Spider and saw how large and rounded his eyes had become. Even smelled his fear like an overpowering perfume. The pulse at his throat drew her eyes. It teased her, begged her to take a bite. But his hands interested her more. Spider had wanted his hands on her earlier that night. She had said no then. Why not be in a place they should? Like her mouth? Yes.

With a smile, Jenny leaned over, her jaws popping to accommodate the feeding. She grabbed Spider’s hands as he tried to screamed, but couldn’t, thanks to the magic she used.

His hands tasted so good when they were in the right spot. Like down her throat and in her tummy.

the end.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Weird Wednesday

Today's Weird Wednesday has two Christmas trees. Now, having more than one Christmas tree are not out of the norm these days, but one that is upside down?

The Story Behind Santa Claus

"You better watch out

You better not cry

Better not pout

I’m telling you why

Santa Clause is coming to town."
~Santa Claus is Coming to Town 

Santa Claus, also known as Saint Nicholas, Father Christmas, and even as Kris Kringle is a figure with mythical, historical, and folkloric aspects. In many western cultures, he is supposed to bring gifts to the homes of the good children during the late evening and overnight hours of Christmas Eve, December 24. The modern figure was derived from the Dutch figure of Sinterklaas.. This legendary being may have part of basis in hagiographical tales concerning the historical figure of a real man, Saint Nicholas. There is a nearly identical story is attributed by Greek and Byzantine folklore to Basil of Caesarea. Basil's feast day on January 1 is considered the time of exchanging gifts in Greece.

Most of us think he always wore the red coat and pants, trimmed in white fur, black boots and belt, and red hat trimmed in white fur and a ball of white fur like a tassel at the end. But that version did not appeared until the 1823 poem, “Night Before Christmas,” written by Clement Clarke Moore, which was called a “A Visit from St. Nicholas.” Thomas Nast, considered to be the father of the American cartoon, was the first to have created the first image of Santa as we know today. But the name, Santa Claus, was first used in the American press in 1773.

According to a tradition, Santa Claus lives at the North Pole, with a large number of elves, and nine (originally eight) flying reindeer. Since the 20th century, in an idea popularized by the 1934 song "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town", Santa Claus has been believed to make a list of children throughout the world, categorizing them according to their behavior ("naughty" or "nice") and to deliver presents, including toys, fruit and candy to all of the good boys and girls in the world, and sometimes coal to the naughty children, on the single night of Christmas Eve. He accomplishes this feat with the aid of the elves that make the toys in the workshop and the reindeer who pull his sleigh.

Saint Nicholas of Myra is the primary inspiration for the Christian figure of Sinterklaas. A 4th century Greek Christian bishop of Myra (now Demre) in Lycia (now Turkey), Nicholas was famous for his generous gifts to the poor. One well-known tale concerned him presenting three impoverished daughters of a pious Christian with dowries so that they would not have to become prostitutes. He was very religious from an early age and devoted his life entirely to Christianity. In continental Europe (particularly, the Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, and Germany) he is still portrayed as a bearded bishop in canonical robes. In 1087, the Italian city of Bari mounted an expedition to locate the tomb of the Christian Saint and to procure his remains. The reliquary of St. Nicholas was desecrated by Italian sailors and the spoils, including his relics, were taken to Bari where they are kept to this day. Saint Nicholas later became proclaimed as the patron saint of an odd assemble of peoples: archers, sailors, and children, to even pawnbrokers. He is also the patron saint of both Amsterdam and Moscow.There are numerous parallels between Santa and Odin of Norse Mythology. There are theories regarding the pagan origins of various customs of the holiday stemming from areas where the Germanic peoples were Christianized and retained elements of their indigenous traditions, surviving in various forms into modern depictions of Santa Claus. Odin was sometimes recorded, at the native Germanic holiday of Yule, as leading a great hunting party through the sky. Two books from Iceland, the Poetic Edda, compiled in the 13th century from earlier sources, and the Prose Edda, written in the 13th century by Snorri Sturluson, describe Odin as riding an eight-legged horse named Sleipnir that could leap great distances, giving rise to comparisons to Santa Claus's reindeer. Further, Odin was referred to by many names in Skaldic poetry, some of which describe his appearance or functions. These include Síðgrani, Síðskeggr Langbarðr, (all meaning "long beard") and Jólnir ("Yule figure"). According to some traditions, children would place their boots, filled with carrots, straw, or sugar, near the chimney for Odin's flying horse, Sleipnir, to eat. Odin would then reward those children for their kindness by replacing Sleipnir's food with gifts or candy. This practice still survives in Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands and became associated with Saint Nicholas since Christianization. In other countries it has been replaced by the hanging of stockings at the chimney in homes.

In the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg, Saint Nicholas ("Sinterklaas", often called "De Goede Sint" — "The Good Saint") is aided by helpers commonly known as Zwarte Piet in Dutch ("Black Peter") or "Père Fouettard" in French. His feast on December 6 came to be celebrated in many countries with the giving of gifts. However, in the Netherlands the Dutch celebrate on the evening of December 5, with a celebration called "pakjesavond". In the Reformation in 16th-17th century Europe, many Protestants and others changed the gift bringer to the Christ Child or Christkindl, and the date for giving gifts changed from December 6 to Christmas Eve. Tradition holds that Saint Nicholas (Sinterklaas) and his aides arrive each year by steam boat from Spain in mid November carrying a book that contains notes on all children that indicate whether the child has been good or naughty during the year and gifts, chocolate letters and spice nuts to be handed to the well-behaved children. During the subsequent three weeks, Saint Nicholas is believed to ride a white-grey horse over the rooftops at night, delivering gifts through the chimney to the well-behaved children, while the naughty children risk being caught by Saint Nicholas' aides that carry jute bags and willow canes for that purpose.

In contrast to Santa Claus, Sinterklaas is an elderly, stately and serious man with white hair and a long, full beard. He wears a long red cape or chasuble over a traditional white bishop's alb and sometimes red stola, dons a red mitre, and holds a gold-colored crosier, a long ceremonial shepherd's staff with a fancy curled top. He carries a big book that tells whether each individual child has been good or naughty in the past year. He traditionally rides a white gray. Though in the Netherlands and Belgium next to Sinterklaas, the character of Santa Claus is also known, He is known as de Kerstman in Dutch ("the Christmas man") and Père Noël ("Father Christmas") in French.

An elf in Nordic folklore about the 1840s called "Tomte" or "Nisse" started to deliver the Christmas presents in Denmark. Portrayed as a short, bearded man dressed in gray clothes and a red hat, this creature was obviously inspired by the Santa Claus traditions that spread to Scandinavia then. By the end of the 19th century this tradition had also spread to Norway and Sweden, replacing the Yule Goat. The same thing happened in Finland, but there the more human figure retained the Yule Goat name. But even though the tradition of the Yule Goat as a bringer of presents is now all but extinct, a straw goat is still a common Christmas decoration in all of Scandinavia. Iceland has thirteen Yule lads that originate from folklore rather than Christianity.

Father Christmas goes back as far as the 17th century in Britain. There are pictures of him from that era, where he is a jolly well-nourished bearded man dressed in a long, green, fur-lined robe. He typified the spirit of good cheer at Christmas, and was reflected as the "Ghost of Christmas Present", in Charles Dickens's festive classic A Christmas Carol.

Today, Santa Claus is the image for the Christmas spirit. Parents take their children for photos with Santa at malls and shopping centers. There’s even a website by Norad where you can track then jolly old elf. NORAD SANTA

Now that you learned something of where he originated from, the question is, are you naughty or nice? You can check out at Naughty or Nice Meter After all, you only have a few more days before he descends into your home to leave your present.

Monday, December 19, 2011

A Genre Writer's Christmas

It was the night before Christmas,

And this writer was busy plotting
When all of a sudden--
Her characters came to life!
There was the monster from her novel,
Chomping on a tasty victim.
The hero appeared, stunning in purple;
Well, that's the writer's favorite color,
What did you expect: white?
He grabbed a sharpened pencil to duel with the fiend
When the heroine popped in midair and dropped down,
Into a container overflowing with paper clips.
Drowning, choking on a clip, she cried out for help,
And who do you think rescued her?
Not the hero, oh no!
He was trying to make time with a statue of a gargoyle,
That stood guard over the writer's laptop.
For he had a thing for beings made of stone.
The monster rushed right over in a flash,
Not to kill her or eat her,
No, with a gentle paw, he helped her up.
And arm in arm, both vanished to the monster's lair
Where in chapter eleven, they got it on hot and heavy.
The writer just shook her head
And with a click of the mouse, saved the story.
The hero dissipated, no more to be seen,
Well, not until chapter twelve anyway.
With a sigh, the writer stood and snatched up her coffee cup,
Time to join the family and reality,
The story could wait for another time.
Because it's Christmas after all:
Merry Christmas to all and to all, a magical night!


COPYRIGHT 2011 by Pamela K. Kinney. So please do not copy and post on your site without permission, but do share the link instead.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Supernatural Friday: A Season of Fear and Superstition

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. . .

Next week on December 23rd, I will post Part 2 of Supernatural Friday: A Season of Fear and Superstition.  But if you want to read ghost stories, real or fiction, check out my books. For myths and legends, check out Haunted Virginia: Legends, Myths, and True TalesFor ghostly tales set in Richmond and its surrounding counties: Haunted Richmond, Virginia.

For my fiction, I do have some ghost stories in this book, Spectre Nightmares and Visitations, besides other tales of horror. For the tradepaper back (only $7.50): Amazon and Genre Connections. For it as an eBook, find it and the one short story, "Dark Eyes," that is in the print version, but not in the download,  find both at Genre Connections.

Neither Tree or Family Can Separate True Love

"We loved with a love that was more than love." Edgar Allan Poe

There is a couple buried in the cemetery behind Jamestown Memorial Church. A legend that involves a sycamore tree says that it separates them in death, accomplishing supposedly what their families never could do in life.

In the 1700s, James Blair served as counsel to the British Government and became governor of the Virginia colony later on. He is considered the founder of the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg. All of this would be made him a worthy suitor for any young woman. He was handsome, too. Any parent would be proud that he paid suit to their daughter, but Sarah Harrison's parents did not see it that way.

Age seventeen and the oldest daughter of Colonel Benjamin Harrison of Wakefield Plantation, Sarah was active in plantation social life. She was not only beautiful, but also a headstrong girl. Many eligible suitors paid court to her. Her parents approved of marriage to one of them, a young man named William Roscoe.

Except she met James Blair three weeks later, after her engagement had been announced. She fell in love with him and it seemed that he did likewise. A love affair deemed doomed from the start. Not only because of her engagement to Mr. Roscoe, but because James was twice her age. In those days, any girl who married an older man became a disgrace to her parents, since society viewed such marriages as a sign of the girl's family's failing finances.

The headstrong Sarah, though, did not stay away from James. Legend has it that her fiancé, William Roscoe, died of a broken heart after she broke their engagement. Not long after, she and James married. Her parents did not attend the wedding and would have nothing to do with the couple. They tried many things, from trying to get it annulled to even drawing up legal papers. During a trip to see an attorney about this, Colonel Harrison, his wife, and their youngest daughter were killed when lightning during a storm struck their carriage.

The Blairs went on to live happily as man and wife until Sarah passed away in 1713 at the age of forty-two. Never forgiven by her family, she could not gain entrance into the Harrison family plot and instead got buried in a stone crypt just outside it, in a small cemetery within grasping fingers' reach of the Jamestown Memorial Church on Jamestown Island.

James lived another thirty years. When he finally died in 1743, he was laid to rest in another stone crypt about six inches from his wife's tomb.

In 1750, a sycamore tree began to grow next to James's crypt, right between his tomb and his wife's. Nothing was done to prevent its growth and it grew and grew until it shattered the bricks between the two crypts. This caused Sarah's headstone to move into the nearby Harrison plot, only a short distance from her parents' and her sister's graves.

The story doesn't end there, either. Not long ago, the old sycamore tree, grown very large, had died and gotten cut down. The broken bricks and shattered tombs had been left as they were. Not long after another sycamore tree sprouted in the very same spot. By all appearances, it appeared that the Harrisons still worked from beyond the veil to keep their daughter from James.
Just as it was so back in October 28, 2008, I found the two lovers' graves side-by-side, no sycamore tree separating them. All the graves in that church cemetery laid out in a row, no doubt put that way by the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities. I'm pretty sure that the preservation society dug out that tree long ago, but the romantic in me still believes that maybe James got his wish and the two of them are together in death just as they had been in life. Doesn't happily-ever-after always sound better with any story?