Thursday, March 15, 2018

Supernatural Friday: St. Patrick's Day is a Very Mythic Day

Sorry to be late with posts, but the past two weeks I've been to a convention, then became ill from a sinus infection. Next Friday, will be about the ghost stories of the haunted Biltmore Hotel in Rhode Island I stay at for Stokercon 2018, and what happened to me there.

Once upon a time, blue was the color to wear. That's right, not green, but blue! Because blue was the color of Ireland's flag. It was changed to green most likely due to the shamrock.

St. Patrick chased the snakes out of Ireland. Except that would be hard, as there never been snakes in Ireland. Separated from England and the Continent thousands of years ago, Ireland emerged from the Ice Age snake-free.

Contrary to popular belief, the shamrock is not the official emblem of Ireland. Ask any head of state or diplomat. That honor goes to the Celtic harp. But in the hearts and minds of people all over the world, the shamrock is considered the symbol of Ireland. You could say the shamrock is the emblem of Irish culture.

The shamrock was once known as "seamróg", pronounced "Seamroy,”  which meant "little clover". They also mention the fact that it is a very common clover that grows heartily in Ireland.

Many agree that the ancient Druids honored it as a sacred plant. The Druids believed the shamrock had the power to avert evil spirits. Some people still believe the shamrock has mystical, even prophetic, powers. It is said that the leaves of shamrocks turn upright whenever a storm is coming.

According to Lady Wilde, the shamrock "enlightens the brain and makes one see and know the truth".

The ancient Irish Celts also revered the shamrock because it has three leaves, and they considered "3" to be a sacred number. The ancient Celtic Druids believed many numbers held mystical powers.

The three leaves shaped like hearts were associated with the Triple Goddess of Celtic mythology, otherwise known as the "Three Morgans". The Triple Goddess represented the Triple Mothers, the hearts of the ancient Celtic tribes.

This Celtic tradition of honoring "3's" continued in Ireland for millennia.

Three was also sacred to devotees of the goddess, Brighid, signifying totality. And the Irish bards continued the significance of "3's" by using triple repetition in their storytelling rhythms.

Legend of the Banshee
When most people think of a Banshee, they imagine a floating, spectral figure wailing and generally being extremely frightening. You may also be aware of the old belief which states that Banshees are harbingers of death.

What is a Banshee?
A Banshee is said to be a fairy in Irish legend and her scream is believed to be an omen of death. The scream is also called ‘caoine’ which means ‘keening’ and is a warning that there will be an imminent death in the family and as the Irish families blended over time, it is said that each family has its own Banshee!
A Banshee is a disembodied spirit and can appear in any of the following forms:
§  A beautiful woman wearing a shroud
§  A pale woman in a white dress with long red hair
§  A woman with a long silver dress and silver hair
§  A headless woman carrying a bowl of blood that is naked from the waist up
§  An old woman with frightening red eyes, a green dress and long white hair
§  An old woman with a veil covering her face, dressed all in black with long grey hair

Historians have traced the first stories of the Banshee to the 8th century which were based on a tradition where women sang a sorrowful song to lament someone’s death. These women were known as ‘keeners’ and since they accepted alcohol as payment, they were said to be sinners and punished by being doomed to become Banshees. According to the mythology of the Banshee, if she is spotted, she will vanish into a cloud of mist and this action creates a noise similar to a bird flapping its wings. Legend says that Banshees don’t cause death; they only serve as a warning of it.

Banshees – The Good & Bad
Not all Banshees are hate-filled creatures; there are some that had strong ties to their families in life and continued to watch over them in death. When they manifest themselves, these Banshees appear as beautiful enchanting women that sing a sorrowful, haunting song which is filled with concern and love for their families. This song can be heard a few days before the death of a family member and in most cases the song can only be heard by the person for whom it is intended. 

On the other side of the coin we have the angry and scary Banshee that most of us are familiar with. During their lives, these women had reasons to hate their families and appear as distorted and frightening apparitions filled with hatred. The howls emitted by these Banshees are enough to chill you to the bone and rather than appearing to warn a family member, these Banshees are celebrating the future demise of someone they loathed!

And forget that cute little guy on the Lucky Charms cereal box. Leprechauns are more like the character played Warwick Davis in the Leprechaun movies is not cute or nice. Like many fairies, they were brutish and nasty little people. They were the grumpy, insufferable, alcoholic elves in employ of other fairies. 

According to the book The Element Encyclopedia of Magical Creatures, by John and Caitlin Matthews, the leprechaun legend can be traced back to eighth-century tales of water spirits called "luchorpán," meaning small body. The legend eventually evolved into a mischievous household fairy said to haunt cellars and drink heavily.

Leprechauns are shoemakers. Some researchers claim that the word leprechaun came from the Irish 'leath bhrogan,' meaning shoemaker, said to be the sprites' main vocation.

If you happen to come across a Leprechaun, be sure to hold on to him.  According to Irish legends, people lucky enough to capture a 
leprechaun can barter his freedom for three wishes. But dealing with a leprechaun can be a tricky proposition.

A leprechaun is a trickster figure who cannot be trusted. Folklorist Carol Rose offers a typical tale of leprechaun trickery in her encyclopedia "Spirits, Fairies, Leprechauns, and Goblins," it concerns "a man who managed to get a leprechaun to show him the bush in the field where his treasure was located. Having no spade [shovel], the man marked the tree with one of his red garters, then kindly released the sprite and went for a spade. Returning almost instantly he found that every one of the numerous trees in the field sported a red garter!"

Like most fairies, leprechauns have a distinctive sound associated with them. While the Irish banshee can be identified by a mournful wail, leprechauns are recognized by the tap-tap-tapping of a tiny cobbler hammer, driving nails into shoes, that announces they are near.

Leprechauns are always male. In the 1825 book "Fairy Legends" noted that Leprechauns seem to be entirely male and solitary. No female Leprechauns at all! They are often described as bearded old men dressed in green and wearing buckled shoes. Sometimes they wear a pointed cap or hat and may smoke a pipe. But Leprechauns weren't always dressed in green, nor wore pointed caps or  hats. Early tales of the creatures reported wearing red clothing and tri-cornered hat perched on their heads. 

And according to Carolyn White’s A History of Irish Fairies, there is no record of any female Leprechauns existing. This of course means that Leprechauns defy typical laws of biology by surviving and there is no evidence which tells the story of how they breed. The book also mentions that Leprechauns are deformed children of the fairies.

Next time you watch that horror film, Leprechaun, remember that is the true fey being.

But no matter if myth or truth, enjoy the day and dance a little jig. Just don't overdo the green beer and Irish food.



Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Author Appearance at Chesterfield Comic Con This Saturday, March 17th

I will be at Chesterfield Comic Con this Saturday, March 17th (St. Patrick's Day) from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. It will be held at the Meadowdale Library branch of the Chesterfield County Library, 4301 Meadowdale Blvd, Richmond, VA 23234. It is open to the public and free. You can call the library at 804-318-8778 for directions. 

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 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 

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.