A Halloween Message From Me to You

 

vintage-halloween

 

With grace and gratitude, wishing you a hallowed Halloween and sanctified Samhain.

In honor of the season, I put together this video, featuring the ever-fabulous Mediaeval Baebes. Hope you like it! Have a safe and fun day 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Halloween Countdown: Soul Cakes

 

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“A soul! a soul! a soul-cake!
Please good Mistress, a soul-cake!
An apple, a pear, a plum, or a cherry,
Any good thing to make us merry.”  — Soul Cake Song

 
Long before trick-or-treaters donned masks and Halloween became an international franchise, our Medieval ancestors had a different (and much more solemn) way of celebrating.  During these festivities, poor children went door to door, begging for cakes or bread in a tradition called ‘Souling’.

The basic idea was, you give the kid a cake and he or she says a prayer for one of your dead relatives. It was a win/win situation: a charitable donation for accumulated prayers.

Although Halloween/Samhain was originally a Pagan festival, when the Roman Church grew to power in the 4th century, it (like so many other Pagan celebrations) was hijacked and morphed to fit church traditions.

Hallowtide festivities in the Middle Ages took place over a period of three days, beginning on October 31 and ending on November 2. Three different holidays were  celebrated during this time.

All Hallows Eve (October 31st) was a day to honor deceased relatives.  It was customary to go to the graveyard, bring offerings of ‘soul cakes’ and wine, and commune with the dead, as veils to the otherworld were lifted. Visitors would light candles or bonfires and ring bells to help attract surreal  entities.

Joža Uprka

All Saints Day (November 1st) was a day to honor saints, while All Souls Day (November 2nd) paid tribute to ALL the souls of the departed.  On All Souls day, children would go door to door hoping to receive soul cakes.  Whenever you gave a child a cake, he or she then had an obligation to say a prayer or sing a song for one of your deceased relatives — who just might be doing time in Purgatory, waiting to enter heaven.

By giving out soul cakes, you could get extra prayers for your loved ones, thus keeping them from the clutches of Satan.

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First recorded in the 5th century, the tradition of giving soul cakes continued on in some parts of England as late as the 1890’s.

So, what exactly was a soul cake?

Soul cakes took many different shapes and sizes. In some areas, they were simple shortbread, and in others they were baked as fruit-filled tarts. Some were an early form of French toast, making use of stale or day old bread to be given to the poor.  Ingredients, of course, were used according to what was most available in the community.

If you’d like to try your own hand a whipping up some soul cakes for Halloween, here are a few recipes.

This one dates all the way back to 1350!

TRADITIONAL SOUL BREAD

6 large dinner rolls
2 eggs, beaten
4 tbsp. butter, melted
1/4 cup currants
1 tsp. ground ginger and cinnamon combined
1/4 tsp. salt
Pinch of saffron

Grind saffron, mix with butter and set aside. Cut centers out of rolls to make a little bowl, reserving removed breadcrumbs. Mix eggs, currants, butter mixture, ginger, cinnamon and salt. Pour over breadcrumbs (which preferably has been dried out first) and stir carefully until all bread is evenly coated. Stuff rolls with mixture. Put about an inch of water in the bottom of a large pan and bring it to boil. Then put in the rolls, reduce heat, and simmer for 15 minutes with the pan tightly covered. Remove immediately from water with a slotted spoon and serve hot.

Source: Curye on Inglish. Middle English recipes
Oxford University Press.

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If you’d like a more modern recipe, try these:

PIE CRUST SOUL CAKES

You’ll need:

  • A refrigerated roll-out pie crust
  • 2 Tbs. melted butter
  • 1 C mixed dried fruit
  • 2 Tbs honey

Roll out the pie crust and cut it into circles. Use the circles to line a tin of muffin cups. Mix the butter, fruit and honey together. Scoop the fruit mixture into the pastry shells, and then bake for 15 minutes at 375 degrees. Allow to cool for about ten minutes before eating.

Source: Recipes for Halloween

Your trick or treaters will no doubt be delighted!

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On the other hand, parents will be suspicious of anything hand made and not wrapped… so you may want to keep your soul treats all to yourself 🙂

And finally! For your listening pleasure, here is a lovely version of the Soul Cake Song, performed in Medieval ballad style by Kristen Lawrence. Hope you enjoy it!

Happy Souling!

 

 

 

 

 

Fun on Friday the 13th

 

Friday13thCat

Our final Friday the 13th of this year happens to fall in October, the same month as Halloween. Supernatural vibes are high for the entire month. This Friday the 13th will be particularly sacred and special for a number of reasons, and we should celebrate accordingly!

Interestingly, the numbers 13 and Halloween’s date of 31 share a numeric root of 4. The number 4 symbolizes structure, stability, logic, reason, power and control.  The number 13, which is the inverted, or ‘flip side’ of 4, symbolizes change, transformation, mystery, mysticism and upheaval.  As such, this Friday the 13th is a great time to establish control of the supernatural, and seek the type of transformation that will lead to power and stability.

In honor of this day, I am offering 13 suggestions for some interesting, other-worldly and transformative things you could do to celebrate.

1. Visit a haunted house!

‘Tis the season, and haunted houses are in full swing all around the country. They offer fun and exhilaration, plus the added bonus — great fear leads to great release of tension.  (Ever notice how everyone is always laughing when they come out?)  If you are near Chicago, this video will help you choose one to attend.

 

2.  Invite the gang over for a séance!

If you have some adventurous friends who are open minded, this night is particularly good for contacting the otherworld, before the BIG lifting of the veils on Halloween.

seance

If your friends are not game, you can always do your own private séance. Light a candle for your loved ones. Find your breath in the darkness and silence. Invite spirits of the dearly departed to help and guide you.

3.  Watch a Hitchcock movie!

Believe it or not, the Master of Suspense, Alfred Hitchcock, was actually born on a Friday the 13th! Honor him by watching one of his cinematic gems. I recommend The Birds, but there are a bunch of great ones to choose from.

hitch

4. Adopt a black cat.

Contrary to popular belief, black cats can be very lucky, and they make great companions! Support your local shelter by giving a home to one of these black beauties. For more information about lucky black cats CLICK HERE.

5. Do a 13 card tarot reading.

For Tarot aficionados, this will be easy. Use the traditional Celtic cross spread of ten cards, but at the end add three more cards.  Interpret these three as aspects of transformation, stability and luck. If you do not read Tarot personally, consider visiting your local soothsayer, or contact one via internet.

tarot

6. Bake a batch of 13 cupcakes.

A group of 13 is also known as a ‘Baker’s dozen’. Interestingly, the phrase ‘Baker’s dozen’ originated in Medieval England. Bakers had a practice of throwing in one extra loaf of bread when selling a dozen, in order to avoid being penalized for shortchanging their customers. Weird as it sounds, the bakers could actually be fined, sent to the pillory or whipped for cheating their customers!

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(Sounds like one Medieval practice we should bring back, as portions mysteriously ‘shrink’ at the supermarket, and fraudulent practices abound…)   At any rate, your 13 cupcakes will be great to serve your friends if they do come over for the séance.

7. Honor the goddess Freya. Today is truly her day!

The word Friday is derived from Freya, the Norse goddess of love, sex and fertility. She is worshipped on every Friday, but Friday the 13th holds special meaning. Legend tells us the witches of the North would observe their sabbat by gathering in the woods by the light of the moon. On one such occasion Freya herself came down from her sanctuary in the mountaintops and appeared before the group.

freya (1)

The witches numbered only 12 at the time. Freya joined the circle, making the number 13, after which the witches’ coven — and every properly-formed coven since then — comprised exactly 13. You can make a personal homage to Freya by lighting a pink candle and offering her an apple, the traditional fruit of love.

8. Contact 13 people you have been out of touch with lately.

Wish them a happy Friday the 13.  You could call them, contact them on social media or send an old fashioned Halloween card. By doing this you will send 13 love vibrations into the universe. They will come back to you threefold. Plus you will get back in touch with your long lost buddies, old friends, maybe an old flame? Who knows what will happen…

9. Carve a Jack o’ Lantern!

Pumpkins are a traditional fruit of the fall harvest. A Jack o’ Lantern helps guide spirits from the Otherworld who wish to visit us on Halloween. Carving your Jack o’ Lantern on Friday the 13th will imbue it with the sacred energy of this day.

halloween-pumpkins-pd

Save the pumpkin seeds and bake them on a flat, salted cookie sheet.  Eat exactly 13 seeds each day between now and Halloween. This will serve to remind you of the magical number 13 and increase your spiritual focus as you wait in anticipation of Halloween. Besides that, pumpkin seeds are full of zinc, magnesium and protein. They are great for your immune system and heart health.

10. Make, sew or shop for your Halloween costume!

Your costume will also be imbued with special energy, having been created on this day. When Halloween rolls around you will truly dazzle everyone with your unique style!

costume

11. Make a crystal grid consisting of 13 stones.

Position the stones however you like. Use your grid for specific wishes and intentions. Meditate on your crystal grid each day from now until Halloween. Even if you do not have special crystals, any type of stone can be used for this – even those you find in the garden or in the street. All rocks hold sacred energy!

12. Read, like and comment on 13 WordPress blogs that you do not normally follow.

By doing this you will raise energy, learn new things, make new friends and create good vibes in cyberspace!

13. Read 13 Edgar Allen Poe stories by candlelight.

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Not only was Poe an exceptional poet and Master of the Macabre, but he actually invented the short story form. Nothing like a good old Murder in the Rue Morgue or Masque of Red Death, read by flickering candlelight, to set a Friday the 13th mood!  And if you are looking for more scary short stories, be sure to check out our anthology The Box Under The Bed , aimed to delight and thrill you!

Most of all, have a safe, fun and fantastic Friday the 13th!

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Calling All Fans of the Macabre and Supernatural…

 

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Are you tempted by terror, hungry for hauntings and scintillated by the supernatural? Are you a surveyor of cemeteries, giddy for ghosts, enticed by the eerie?

If you are a regular reader of this blog, I suspect you have a penchant for the Dark Side.  As such, I have an offer for you! (Okay, a shameless plug. But you will like it, I promise!)

A while back, bestselling author and WordPress blogger Dan Alatorre  requested submissions for an anthology of scary stories he was putting together, to be available around Halloween.  Naturally, the minute I heard ‘scary’ and ‘Halloween’, I was IN!!

I submitted a story about Jack the Ripper.  (Teaser HERE)  To my delight, Dan accepted it!

Our anthology, called The Box Under The Bed contains a collection of twenty spine tingling stories. Expect psychotic killers, psychological horror and recreations  of Yesteryear, as well as friendly ghosts and a plethora of  all things weird, wild and wonderful.   Contributors include bestselling authors Allison Maruska  and Jenifer Ruff.    The anthology is due for release on October 1.

box

Now here’s the best part! You can pre-order a Kindle download for only 99 cents!  Pre-orders will also include a bonus story written by Dan Alatorre which will not be included after the release date.  Paperbacks will be available later.

If interested please click HERE.  Hours of thrilling enchantment await, as we prepare for Halloween…

scary ty

 

 

 

Halloween Horror: Honoring the Vampire

 

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In time all humankind                                                                                                                  come to realize                                                                                                                                        the vampire that lurks                                                                                                                            inside. It stands                                                                                                                                      on the border                                                                                                                                              has savage need

yet knows                                                                                                                                                     it is only

cold breath. Eternal mercy.  Eyes                                                                                                             glinting on the window                                                                                                                             looking in.

 

 

 

 

 

Halloween Jack

 

halloween-jack

I first met the Devil in a pub called the Boar’s Head on Old Cork road.  The night, as I recall, was all hallows eve.  Having spent my last farthing on ale I tried to barter the barkeep for  one last drink.  My mouth watered but he refused me.  “Go on home boy,” he ordered. “Get you a good night’s sleep. Come the morrow all the world will be brighter.”

He was wrong. My world was darkness. I had no intention of retreating home to my bare and filthy hovel where paint peeled off the walls, rats basked in the waste bins and I had drained every ounce of my whiskey bottles dry. I knew not where I’d wander, yet the barkeep bid me leave.  And so it was to my great fortune that before exiting through the pub’s swinging door I encountered Lucifer himself.

 

undead 2 pd

There he stood, hands crossed at his chest, a blithe smile on his face. He was oddly graceful, a strange dignity about him.

“Your days are numbered Jack,” he told me. “A life of thieving, gambling, drinking and whoring. What have you to show for yourself?  Well now. It seems time has expired and I’ve come to take you to the iron gates.”

The Devil. He may think himself wise, but I, Sneaky Jack Skrumpington, was much wiser!

“You don’t look like the Devil to me,” I challenged. “If you are true, then prove it. Change yourself into a shilling!”   One shilling, I reasoned, would buy me a fresh pitcher of ale.

Lucifer scowled. He laughed at my challenge, and yet, he could not resist a good dare. In an instant he transformed himself into a shiny silver coin which I did not hesitate to snatch. I quickly hid it in my pocket, right next to my rosary’s shiny cross.

 

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Everyone knows the Devil cannot abide a cross. He was thus under my spell. Yet I was not entirely unmerciful. I  made a bargain with him. In exchange for his freedom he would give me the sum of one million ducats and another ten  years to live upon this earth.  He agreed. After all, he had no choice.

During my next ten years I lived a life of decadence.  I dined at the finest of inns, drank wine under crystal chandeliers. I slept in silk sheets upon feathered beds, beautiful women accompanying me at every turn.  I spent much of my time gaming, cheating and winning, caring not a fig for those I left in debt.  I steadily increased my ever growing fortune.

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Finally it all came to an end.

It was upon all hallows eve, ten years later when the Devil returned to claim my soul. He found me sprawled beneath an apple tree, sleeping off a long drunk.

“Skrumpington!” he barked. “Your time has expired.”  His lips formed a wide smile, green teeth reflecting the light of the moon. Although he attempted his best of horrifying theatrics, commanding streaks of lightning across the sky and claps of thunder, he did not scare me. I knew better.

“Lucifer,” I pleaded, kneeling before him. “Can you not give a damned man one last request? Do it!  Do it, so you prove yourself a creature of mercy, not the evil demon they paint you!  Do it, so you prove yourself a being of justice, not the slithering snake they claim.  Forget not, Lucifer,  you were once a son of light!”

He stared at me. This remark had struck a chord.  I moved my face close to his. “Aye,” I whispered in his hairy ear. “Once, dear Lucifer, you sat at the right hand of the Father. You were his favorite, were you not?  The brightest star of the heavens, Luz the light. Oh, but  that was long before your great sin of pride, wasn’t it? You banished yourself from the heavens, fell from grace into your own lonely cavern of hell. Surely you remember?”

I stroked his neck, moved my hand across the small of his back.  He quivered at my touch.  “Show me now you have not lost all your goodness,” I urged.  “Grant  me but one last request.” I moved my lips to his cheek, kissed him gently and tasted the salt of a single tear that fell from his eye.

He nodded, for even the Devil had some shred of decency.  Besides, he knew a pacified soul would be more useful to him. He clutched my hand.  “What then would you have from me Jack Skrumpington?” he asked.

“Only a simple apple,” I answered. “Ripe and sweet, picked from this very tree.” I pointed to the top bough, heavy with fruit.

 

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Lucifer nodded and like a lizard he shimmied up the bark, entrenching himself between the branches. He reached up to pick the largest, reddest apple the tree bore.

I wasted no time! In one instant I pulled my knife from its scabbard. Quickly I carved a cross in the trunk of the tree. Lucifer’s eyes widened in terror. He was now stuck on the branch of the tree, unable to descend, for everyone knows the Devil can never approach a cross.

I grinned up at him. He spat down on me. “Skrumpington,” he hissed. “You have deceived me again!”

“I will release you,” I said. “If you make me but one single promise.”

His body writhed and wrinkled, now blending into the wood of the tree. He wheezed, struggling to breathe as the tree’s tentacles closed in around him. His eyes were frightened and white. A knot in the bark swallowed him whole, then spit him out again and he hung like a folded fish on the branch.

“Very well Skrumpington!” he gasped. “What bid you this time?”

“This time…” I sighed a sigh of deep satisfaction, strolled grandly in a circle, watching him the whole time.  “This time you shall agree to never take my immortal soul, regardless of whatsoever evil deeds I may perform.”

He nodded slowly.

“Swear it!” I commanded.

“I swear it, Jack Skrumpington. I will never take your immortal soul.”

He was a defeated thing, weak and gray, his body now sliding like a stretched lump of clay . I almost felt sorry for him. Almost.

 

For what remained of my life I continued my ways of debauchery, drinking and whoring myself  into an inevitable grave.  I was a liar, a user and a sycophant. I frequented gambling dens and houses of ill repute.  I lived only for myself and my own gain. It would later be said of me “Jack Scrumpington  never once performed a selfless act nor did any kindness toward his fellow man.”

Yet time waits for no one and even I was not immune. My body grew old.  My back bent, my bones ached with arthritis. Finally my unbridled whoring caught up with me and the syphilis pox set in.  My hands shook.  My walk became a staggered, struggling gait.  My penis withered like a crumpled twig.  My liver became diseased, bloated with cirrhosis, swollen from years of hard liquor. Yellow jaundice enmeshed my flesh.  Death, when it finally came, was a mercy.

I then found myself at the gates of Saint Peter.

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The Saint shuffled his feet, looked at me and  shook his head. “Can’t take you Jack,” he said sadly, “for never in your life have you performed a single selfless act. Not once have you done any kindness toward your fellow man.” Peter leafed through his book of souls, double checking as if there might be a chance he would still find my name.  But no. He closed the book.  “Sorry Jack.” He shrugged.  “Not once.” He caught my eye with a look of genuine sympathy as he locked the white pearl of the deadbolt.

 

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The wind gusted. I felt a chill up my spine. Winter was coming and it would be a long, merciless one.  Ice formed on the pavement beneath me.  I wore only the sack cloth I had been buried in.  My teeth chattered.

What to do?  What to do?  I’d go to the Devil! Of course I would!  At the very least, it should be warm in hell. Yes, it would be an eternity of misery, the lake of fire, but I’d embrace it, punishment for the damage I’d done in my waking life.

Lucifer peered through the gray mist that surrounded his iron gate. Upon recognizing me, he furrowed his brow and shook his head. “Oh no,” he said. “I’ve no want for you here, Jack Scrumpington.  I promised I’d never take your immortal soul and I’ll not take it. A promise is a promise.” He clasped his hands together and bowed his head.  “I may be a lot of – er – unsavory things.  But Lucifer Luz is a man of his word!” He stomped a foot and pounded his own chest.

Not fit for heaven, not welcome in hell.  I was the lowest of souls, left to wander on the brink of nothingness. I turned away from Lucifer’s gate. The thick mist clouded my eyes. I stumbled like a blind man. The night was black as pitch. I could see not one outline, not one shadow.

Just then I felt Lucifer’s warm touch upon my shoulder.

 

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“You’ll need something to light your way,” he said, not unkindly.  He then handed me a hollowed out pumpkin.  A lone candle burned at its base, blackening the inside rind.

“Take this lantern, Jack,” the Devil said. “May it guide you through the darkness.” He then handed me a knife.  “You may want to carve some designs in it. Allow extra light.”

It was an act of unmerited kindness, considering what I’d done to him.

In that moment I felt guilt for the first time. I was sorry I had treated him so badly.  I realized my skewed values.   But alas, it was by then, too late.

With Lucifer’s knife I carved a face in the pumpkin, triangle eyes and nose, even a smiling toothless mouth.

From that day on I was left to wander through the land of spirit. I am usually unseen but sometimes, upon all hallows eve you might find me. It is then the veils are lifted and humankind may enter our realms. Look for me in the alleyways, in your dark streets of trick-or-treaters.  I am the ghostly figure who carries a lone pumpkin of candle light to brighten my sad path.

They call me Jack of the Lantern.

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