Saturday, March 28, 2015

Supernatural Friday: Weird Death Customs and Superstations

I've found some interesting customs and superstitions that people used to believe, concerning death.

It is bad luck to meet a funeral procession head on. If you see one approaching, turn around. If this is unavoidable, hold on to a button until the funeral cortege passes.

Aa clap of thunder is heard following a burial means that the soul of the departed has reached heaven. 

Do not hold your breath while going by a graveyard so you will not be buried.

The person who died was good in life; flowers would bloom on his grave. If he or she done evil while alive, only weeds would grow.

The odor of roses when no one is around indicates that someone will die. Seeing yourself in a dream means that your death will follow.

If a sparrow lands on a piano, someone in the home will die.

A picture falling off a wall means that there will be a death of someone you know.

A single snowdrop growing in the garden foretells death. .

Clocks were stopped at the hour of the death and  another reason, otherwise, the living had bad luck.

Covering mirrors where the dead was laid out supposedly prevented the disembodied spirit from seeing their own reflection and never finding rest. Other reasons because so the soul of the departed wouldn’t get caught behind the glass and be unable to pass to the other side. One final belief claimed if the living saw their own reflection in a mirror while a body lay in the parlor, they would die soon after.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Author Li ve Appearances Through August 2015

I will be either selling and signing my books and the Paranormal World Seekers DVDs, an author guest or an appearance.

Ravencon--April 24-26, 2015--DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Richmond – Midlothian. 1021 Koger Center Boulevard (10800 block of Midlothian Turnpike), North Chesterfield, Virginia 23235.

Science Fiction Yard Sale--May 23, 2015 (Rain Date-May 30th): 4844 Linshaw Lane, Virginia Beach, Va. 23445. 9:00 a.m to 3:00 p.m.

Virginia Haunt Fest 2015--June 6, 2015 (it is also June 5th, but I am being a vendor on the 6th)-9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.: Behind the Curtain Studio, 118B Thompson Street, Ashland, Virginia 23005  Phone: 540-205-5629.

Scares That Cares--July 24-26, 2015: Double Tree by Hilton Hotel Williamsburg  50 Kingsmill Road Williamsburg, Virginia, 23185.

Phantomcon--August 7 and 8, 2015: Holiday Inn North Fort Lee, 401 E. Roslyn Road, Colonial Heights, Virginia 23834. 

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Supernatural Friday: Happy First Day of Spring!--Solar Eclipse Myths

Friday is more than the first day of spring. There will be a super moon and also a solar eclipse. The biggest eclipse since 1999, it is expected to plunge some countries into 98 percent darkness, the event, which corresponds with the March equinox, will “skirt the south of Iceland, pass over the Faroe Islands and the Norwegian territory of Svalbard, and finish over the North Pole” this Friday, according to NASA. Phases of the eclipse will be visible from everywhere in Europe, most of northern Africa, western Asia and parts of the Middle East. Saint John’s in Newfoundland, Canada, will also see a small bit of the eclipse at sunrise, but the rest of North America will not be able to view it—this includes where I live. Might be able to view the super moon as 100% rain to hot where I live is to end by noon (we shall see). As for the first day of spring, it will be in the forties where I live too. More winter than spring-like.

Are there myths about the solar eclipses? Let’s see.

This rare event is the moon passing directly between the sun and the Earth—shadowing the planet. The event of midday twilight is said to even quiet birds, as they stop singing, no doubt confused into thinking night has arrived. This significant occurrence was seen as so traumatic or ‘unnatural’ to humanity since prehistoric times myths and legends, and many reason myths and legends have sprung up.

The ancient Greeks believed they were portents and warnings of disaster. Disruption of the established order was frightening and a sign of doom, especially when mankind depended on the movement of the sun to guide the way.
The sun or moon being devoured by supernatural entities was a common theme in myths. Like those in Vietnam believed that a solar eclipse proved the sun was being eaten by a giant frog.


It was thought the sun disappeared due to attacks by gigantic hounds in Korea. Mythical fire dogs called Bulgae were sent by the lord of a dark realm to bite the sun and moon. But the sun was too hot and the moon too cold to bite, only a short time, and the injured dogs returned to their master without their prize.
An eclipse was caused by spirits of the dead trying to eat the Sun or Moon, at least so said Serrano natives of California. Shamans and ceremonial assistants sang and danced during an eclipse as a way to appease the dead. Everyone else shouted in hopes that the spirits would be frightened away.


The Vikings explained that sky wolves, or warsg were behind the eclipses, trying to chase and eat both sun and moon.

There is a legend about the Hindu demon Rahu, who attempted to sneak a taste of an elixir of immortality. The sun and moon told the god Vishnu about Rahu’s crime, so Vishnu sliced off Rahu’s head as the demon was drinking. Rahu’s head became immortal, though his body died. In rage and frustration, Rahu’s head continues to chase the sun and moon, occasionally catching up to swallow them. Because he has no body, however, the moon and sun disappear only momentarily, and fall out the bottom of his head.

There are different traditions and practices still carried out by various cultures to ward off evil during an eclipse, or avoid bad luck. Fasting is still recommended in some countries during solar eclipse. Children and pregnant women are asked to remain indoors as the dramatic darkness is believed to be a danger to them. Other traditions include banging pots, playing drums, and making noise during eclipses in the attempt to scare off evil forces, plus encourage a return of the proper cosmic alignment. In parts of India, people fast during a solar eclipse because they believe that any food cooked during the time will be poisonous, and in Italy it is believed that flowers planted during a solar eclipse have more color than those planted at other times of the year.

The West African Batammaliba’s legends tell that the Sun and Moon are fighting and the reason for the eclipse. The only way to stop the conflict was for people on Earth to settle their differences.

In reality, eclipses happen only happen at the new moon, when the moon directly blocks sight of the sun from certain places in the world. It can take place up to five times a year. But NASA says that only 25 years in the past 5,000 have had five solar eclipses.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Supernatural Friday: Lore of the Skinwalkers

Witches known as skinwalkers can alter their shapes at will to assume the characteristics of certain animals are in religion and cultural lore of Southwestern tribes. They are not werewolves and other types of weres, but like I said, wtiches.
In the American Southwest, the Navajo, Hopi, Utes, and other tribes each have their own version of the skinwalker story, but they all end up to the same thing--a malevolent witch capable of transforming itself into a wolf, coyote, bear, bird, or any other animal. The witch might wear the hide or skin of the animal identity it wants to assume, and when the transformation is complete, the witch inherits the speed, strength, or cunning of the animal whose shape he/she has taken. 
Navajo skinwalkers use mind control, make their victims hurt themselves and even end their lives. They are considered powerful, able to run faster than a car and jump mesa cliffs without any effort at all. No faster than a speeding bullet and able to leap tall buildings like Superman, but not much lesser.
For the Navajo and other tribes of the southwest, the tales of skinwalkers are not mere legend. There’s a Nevada attorney, Michael Stuhff, one of the few lawyers in the history of American jurisprudence to file legal papers against a Navajo witch. He often represents Native Americans in his practice and understands Indian law. He knows and respects tribal religious beliefs. 
As a young attorney in the mid-70s, Stuhff worked in a legal aid program based near Genado, Arizona, many clients being Navajo. He confronted a witch in a dispute over child custody. His client was a Navajo woman who lived on the reservation with her son. She wanted full custody rights and back child support payments from her estranged husband, an Apache man. At one point, the husband got permission to take the son out for an evening, but didn't return the boy until the next day. The son later told his mother what had happened. He had spent the night with his father and a "medicine man." They built a fire atop a cliff and, for many hours, the medicine man performed ceremonies, songs, and incantations around the fire. At dawn, they went to some woods by a cemetery and dug a hole. The medicine man placed two dolls in the hole, one dark and the other made of light wood. The dolls were meant to be the mother and her lawyer.  Sruhff didn’t know how to approach this, so he consulted a Navajo professor at a nearby community college.
The professor told him it sounded like a powerful and serious ceremony of type, meant for the lawyer to end up buried in the graveyard for real. He also said a witch could only perform this type of ceremony only four times in his life, because if he tries it more than that, the curse would come back on the witch himself. Also, if the intended victim discovered about it, then the curse would come back onto the person who had requested it. 
Stuhff filed court papers that requested an injunction against the husband and the unknown medicine man, whom he described in the court documents as "John Doe, A Witch,” to let the husband know he know what he and the witch had done. He described the alleged ceremony in detail.
This upset the opposing attorney by the motion, as did the husband and the presiding judge. The opposing lawyer argued to the court that the medicine man had performed "a blessing way ceremony," not a curse. But Stuhff knew that the judge, who was a Navajo, would be able to distinguish between a blessing ceremony, which takes place in Navajo hogans, and a darker ceremony involving lookalike dolls that took place in the woods near a cemetery. Which he did. Before the judge ruled though, Stuhff requested a recess so that the significance of his legal motion could sink in. The next day, the husband agreed to grant total custody to the mother and pay all back child support. 
Stuhff took it as serious as the husband did, because he learned that sometimes witches will do things themselves to assist the supernatural, and he knew what that might mean.
Whether or not Stuhff believed that witches have supernatural powers, he acknowledged the Navajos did. Certain communities on the reservation had reputations as witchcraft strongholds and the lawyer wasn’t certain that the witch he faced was a skinwalker or not. "Not all witches are skinwalkers," he had said, "but all skinwalkers are witches. 
Skinwalkers are at the top, a witch's witch. Skinwalkers are purely evil in intent. That they do all sorts of terrible things---make people sick and they commit murders. They are also grave robbers and necrophiliacs. Greedy and evil, to become a skinwalker, they must kill a sibling or other relative. They supposedly can turn into were-animals and travel by supernatural means.
Skinwalkers possess knowledge of medicine, medicine both practical (heal the sick) and spiritual (maintain harmony). The flip side of the skinwalker coin is the power of tribal medicine men. Among the Navajo, medicine men train over a period of many years to become full- fledged practitioners in the mystical rituals of the Dine' (Navajo) people. 
But there is a dark side to the learning of the medicine men. Witches follow some of the same training and obtain similar knowledge as their more benevolent colleagues. But they supplement this with their pursuit of the dark arts. By Navajo law, a known witch has forfeited its status as a human and can be killed at will. 
Witchcraft was always an accepted, if not widely acknowledged part of Navajo culture. The killing of witches were historically accepted among the Navajo as it was among the Europeans." At oe point in history, thre was the Navajo Witch Purge of 1878. More than 40 Navajo witches were killed or "purged" by tribe members because the Navajo had endured a horrendous forced march at the hands of the U.S. Army in which hundreds were starved, murdered, or left to die. The Navajo were confined to a bleak reservation that left them destitute and starving at the end of the march. They assumed that witches might be responsible for their plight. They retaliated by purging their ranks of suspected witches. Tribe members reportedly found a collection of witch artifacts wrapped in a copy of the Treaty of 1868 and "buried in the belly of a dead person." 
In the Navajo world, there are as many words for the various forms of witchcraft as there are words for various kinds of snow among the Eskimos. If the woman thought a man was adan'ti, she thought he had the power of sorcery to convert himself into animal form, to fly, or become invisible. 
Few Navajo want to cross paths with naagloshii (or yee naaldooshi), otherwise known as a skinwalker. The cautious Navajo will not speak openly about skinwalkers, especially with strangers, because to do so might invite the attention of an evil witch. After all, a stranger who asks questions about skinwalkers just might be one himself, looking for his next victim. 
In the legends, it is said they curse people and cause great suffering and death. At night, their eyes glow red like hot coals. It is said that if you see the face of a Naagloshii, they have to kill you. If you see one and know who it is, they will die. If you see them and you don't know them, they have to kill you to keep you from finding out who they are. They use a mixture that some call corpse powder, which they blow into your face. Your tongue turns black and you go into convulsions and you eventually die. They are known to use evil spirits in their ceremonies. The Dine' have learned ways to protect themselves against this evil, always keeping on guard." 
Although skinwalkers are generally believed to prey only on Native Americans, there are recent reports from non-Indians claiming they had encountered skinwalkers while driving on or near tribal lands. One New Mexico Highway Patrol officer told us that while patrolling a stretch of highway south of Gallup, New Mexico, he had had two separate encounters with a ghastly creature that seemingly attached itself to the door of his vehicle. During the first encounter, the veteran law enforcement officer said the unearthly being appeared to be wearing a ghostly mask as it kept pace with his patrol car. To his horror, he realized that the ghoulish specter wasn't attached to his door after all. Instead, it ran alongside his vehicle as he roared at high rate of speed down the highway. The officer said he had a nearly identical experience in the same area a few days later. He was shaken to his core by these encounters, but didn't realize that he would soon get some confirmation that what he had seen was real. While having coffee with a fellow highway patrolman not long after the second incident, the cop cautiously described his twin experiences. To his amazement, the second officer admitted having his own encounter with a white-masked ghoul, a being that appeared out of nowhere and then somehow kept pace with his cruiser as he sped across the desert. The first officer told us that he still patrols the same stretch of highway, but is petrified every time he enters the area. 
Once Caucasian family still speaks in hushed tones about its encounter with a skinwalker, even though it happened in 1983. As they drove at night along Route 163 through the Navajo Reservation, the family felt that someone was following them. As their truck slowed down to round a sharp bend, the atmosphere changed, and time itself seemed to slow down. That's when something leaped out of a ditch.
"It was black and hairy and was eye level with the cab," one of the witnesses recalled. "Whatever this thing was, it wore a man's clothes. It had on a white and blue checked shirt and long pants. Its arms were raised over its head, almost touching the top of the cab. It looked like a hairy man or a hairy animal in man's clothing, but it didn't look like an ape or anything like that. Its eyes were yellow and its mouth was open."
The father described as a fearless man who had served two tours in Vietnam, turned completely white, the blood drained from his face. The hair on his neck and arms stood straight up, like a cat under duress, and noticeable goose bumps erupted from his skin. Although time seemed frozen during this bizarre interlude, the truck continued on its way, and the family was soon miles down the highway. 

Days later, the family awoke to the sounds of loud drumming at their home in Flagstaff. They peered out their windows and saw dark forms of three men outside their fence, trying to climb the fence to enter the yard and inexplicably unable to cross onto the property. Frustrated by their failed entry, the men chanted as the terrified family huddled inside the house.  

Strange about this was if skinwalkers, why not assume a shape of a bird and fly over the fence? No mention either of police called. One family member said she called a Navajo friend who walked through the house and said they were skinwalkers, that the intrusion failed because   something protected the family. She admittd that it was all highly unusual since skinwalkers rarely bother non-Indians and performed a blessing ceremony.

Friday, March 06, 2015

Supernatural Friday: In Like a Lion, Out Like a Lamb?-Wind Myths

It's March and sometimes March comes in like a lion, with heavy winds. Of course, it still being winter, that is understandable. And just yesterday, snow and ice hit Virginia and other states with a cold vengeance. 
Are there myths or legends about wind? Well. . . yes, there are a few.

 The Kamaitachi—Japanese wind spirit—was traditionally classified as a wind yokai ("monster"). It is often associated with a trio of weasels with sharp claws, rides on a gust of wind and cuts peoples' skin on the legs. There are times that the three are described as brothers. Other times, as triplets. Yes, triplets can be brothers, but again, a female can be born among them, or all tree can be sisters.
A person walking in the mountains will be beset by a ferocious wind, and later discovered with deep but painless gashes in their skin as if by some very sharp instrument. The myth goes on to say that the first weasel knocked the unsuspecting victim down, the second cut the victim's flesh and the third applied medication to the wounds. By the time the victim realized what had happened, he/she were left only with painful wounds that weren't bleeding.

Now, Ysätters-Kajsa is a female wind-troll. People in the Swedish province of Närke used to believe in this creature. She was probably the only one of her kind in Scandinavia.

In Slavic mythology, the Raróg, sometimes also known as Zhar Ptitsa or Żar Ptak, is a hawk, falcon, or fiery dwarf, turning himself into a whirlwind. While in Lusatia and the Urals it is believe to throw a knife into a whirlwind, in order to kill the demon that resides inside it. Bulgarians, Russians, and Pommeranians cast themselves face down before a whirlwind, hoping to ward off misfortune and illness. As for Russians, they would shout "a belt around your neck!" in order to strangle the demo
Shenlong literally "spirit dragon." This is a spiritual dragon from Chinese mythology that controls wind and rain. These giants floated across the sky and due to their blue color that changed constantly, made it difficult to see clearly. Shenlong governed the wind, clouds and rain on which all agrarian life depended. The Chinese took great care to avoid offending them. If the Shenlong grew angry or felt neglected, the result was bad weather, drought, flood or thunderstorms.

There was an Egyptian mother goddess, called the "Hidden One". She is the personification of the life-bringing northern wind, and often portrayed as a snake or a snake-head on which the crown of Lower Egypt rests.
The Anemoi were wind gods in Greek mythology. Each were ascribed a cardinal direction, from which their respective winds came, and were each associated with various seasons and weather conditions. They were sometimes represented as mere gusts of wind, at other times were personified as winged men, and at still other times were depicted as horses kept in the stables of the storm god Aeolus, who provided Odysseus with the Anemoi in the Odyssey. Astraeus, the astrological deity sometimes associated with Aeolus, and Eos, the goddess of the dawn, were the parents of the Anemoi, according to the Greek poet Hesiod. 
Of the four chief Anemoi, Boreas was the north wind and bringer of cold winter air, Notus was the south wind and bringer of the storms of late summer and autumn, and Zephyrus was the west wind and bringer of light spring and early summer breezes; Eurus, the east wind, was not associated with any of the three Greek seasons, and is the only one of these four Anemoi not mentioned in Hesiod's Theogony or in the Orphic Hymns. Additionally, four lesser Anemoi were sometimes referenced, representing the northeast, southeast, northwest, and southwest winds.

The first peoples of North America considered the wind to be a living force in and of itself. The wind to them is a god - a power that is capable of communicating a larger-than-life language to those who would hear it. Those who were certifiably authorized to interpret these cosmic messages were shamans, medicine men, and the wise and spiritual leaders among tribes.

The Inuit Indians had an Air Spirit among the ranks of their Sila (a term that means Wisdom and Weather). Their Air Spirit controls the seas, skies and wind. Although considered a kind and beneficial spirit, it strikes wrath against liars, beggars and theives in the form of illnesses. It is also blamed for bad weather and poor hunting.

Among the Micmac (a tribe belonging to the Wabanaki Confederacy native to New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. They also migrated to Maine, US) there is a story of a hero named (in English) Strong Wind who turned evil people (specifically the nefarious sisters of his beloved) into aspen trees, and to this day he makes them tremble in fear when he comes near the aspen forest.
Outside of the US, the Aztec wind-god, Ehecatle (a facet of Quetzalcoatl), was believed to blow the moon and sun into orbit.
The legendary Thunderbird in North American indigenous peoples' history and culture is considered a "supernatural" bird of power and strength. The Thunderbird's name comes from that common belief that the beating of its enormous wings caused thunder and stirred the wind.

From a Native perspective, the wind seems to be personified as divine messenger, able to manipulate unseen energy.
Next time, bad weather hits your area, or a strong wind passes through, think of how many people long ago thought of these as gods, monsters and spirits.  Maybe a little appeasement on your part might not hurt? 

Copies of Print Harboring Secrets on Sale for $3.07!

No longer on sale for that price.

The print version of Harboring Secrets anthology that includes my dark fantasy short story, "Devil in the Details' is now on sale for $3.07 at Amazon. Original price is $9.95 and the eBook version is $6.99. So a good time to buy it. It's a mixed bag of horror, paranormal, science fiction, mystery, romance, poetry and true stories. 

Book Blurb: Poignant, funny, thought-provoking, frightening, or enlightening, the literary pieces created for the 20th Anniversary of the Chesapeake Bay Writers club's anthology will entertain. This anthology highlights established writers along with up & coming writers. We present fiction, personal essays, and poetry based around the Chesapeake Bay region of Virginia, while shining light on hidden secrets. In his introduction to the anthology, New York Times best-seller John Gilstrap writes about the Power of Secrets. "Who among us would not go to great lengths to prevent the revelation of at least one secret in our own lives? Our secrets define us, allow us to shape for others the image that we want them to see, projecting our strengths and sheltering our weaknesses." Open the book, settle by the riverbank or the bay shore, and discover the secrets harbored by the Chesapeake Bay Writers.