Celebrating All Things Goth

Histories and Mysteries

goth pd

Okay Goths and Goth lovers, it is time to descend into the Underworld to celebrate your dark, sinister and delicious selves! Today, May 22nd is… (drumroll) …  World Goth Day!

Chances are you may have never heard of this very unique holiday. (In the U.S. they would not want word to get out, trust me.)  I learned about it from my friend, the awesome Australian blogger V Something Speaks.  Check out her Goth Day post  for some great info and recipes to help celebrate!

Because the term Goth is complicated and comes from many origins, I thought it would be fun to explore a bit of our twisted Gothic history.  Who exactly were the first Goths, what does the term mean and how did it get associated with horror movies and punk rock?

The first Goths were ancient Germanic barbarian tribes, also called Visigoths and Ostrogoths. The term comes…

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Hans and the Scary Fairy Tales

Histories and Mysteries

He was a weaver of tales who brought us The Little Mermaid, The Wild Swans, The Emperor’s New Clothes and the Ugly Duckling.  In the course of his lifetime he wrote novels, travelogues, and over three thousand fairy tales which have been translated into 125 languages. His stories have universal appeal, transcending age and nationality. He created a unique mythology which continues to  haunt us and remains part of our collective consciousness.

Hans Christian Andersen was born on this day, April 2, 1805 in Odense, Denmark. His own life story is a classic rags to riches that could have been one of his fairy tales.

His father, also named Hans, was a struggling tradesman and his mother Anne Marie a washerwoman.  Hans Sr. died in 1816. Two years later Anne Marie remarried. It was then decided, for some odd reason, that  Hans Jr. should no longer be allowed to…

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Witch of the Week: Geillis Duncan

The spooky season is upon us, and as part of my Halloween tributes, I thought it might be fun to start a new series on one of my favorite topics—Historical Witches! These women were sometimes notorious, sometimes popular, but most often obscure. All Historical Witches are dear to my heart. They suffered horribly and died as unique types of martyrs, usually forgotten along with their mangled bodies and the ashes of the pyres they were burned upon. These women deserve some recognition.

So, come along with me on a journey to 16th century Scotland! Here we will explore the life and death of one young witch who was the first victim in what became the most gruesome witch hunt in the history of the British Isles.

The Healing Touch

Geillis Duncan was a young girl from the small town of Tranet, East Lothian, near Edinburgh. She worked as a maidservant for one David Seton, the town bailiff. We don’t have a birthdate for Geillis, but historians believe that in 1590 she was probably about 16 years old. Geillis had never been formally educated. She was probably illiterate. But she seemed to possess a unique talent for healing. (This may have been a family trait or practice, as many uneducated women at the time worked as herbalists, midwives, and healers, their skills being handed down through generations.)

Geillis’ talent for healing might have gone unnoticed, except for the fact that her employer, David Seton, seemed to have an overactive imagination, and many suspicions about witchcraft. He apparently associated Geillis’ healing abilities with the supernatural.

In the meantime, other events in Scotland were occurring that were making people, and in particular King James, increasingly fearful of witches. It was these events that really made things bad for Geillis.

More about Geillis in a minute, but first it is necessary to understand the milieu she was immersed in, which led to her demise…

Double Double, Toil and Trouble

At this time, King James VI of Scotland was engaged to Princess Anne of Denmark. In September 1589, Anne attempted to sail to Scotland so the wedding could take place. However, storms on the sea were so severe that her journey was stopped short. Her ship, badly damaged, barely made it back to Denmark. The impatient king then decided that he would sail to Denmark himself, claim his bride, and bring her home.

James made it to Copenhagen in January 1590. His crossing had been equally perilous, with several storms at sea. When he got to Denmark, he found more than his bride…

As it turned out, witch hunts and the persecution of witches were in full swing in Europe at this time. A book titled Malleus Mallifcarum (The Hammer of Witches) had recently been published and had become popular across the continent. Malleus was the first book to declare, with a Papal Bull from the Pope, that witches were in league with the devil, and that they intended to hurt, maim, and kill others. Furthermore, witches could control the weather!

This, of course, led to the belief that the storms King James and Anne had faced at sea were most likely the creation of witches. And sure enough, in April 1590, two women in Copenhagen were arrested. They confessed to creating the storms in an effort to kill the monarchs.

When I say “confessed”, I really mean “tortured until they could bear it no more.” Needing desperately to end their own pain, people accused of witchcraft usually admitted guilt. This happened quite often. Torture of prisoners accused of witchcraft was perfectly legal in Denmark. Furthermore, it was expected that since witches worked in groups, there was never just one or two of them alone. Anyone accused was also tortured until they admitted to working with others, who were also witches. Hence, the two women arrested in Copenhagen eventually “revealed” other “members” of their group. Eventually seven women were put to death in Denmark for attempting to kill the king with storms.

Anne and James returned to Scotland, but the seeds of paranoia had been planted in the king. It has been said that it did not take much to rile up King James. Scotland is a dark, stormy and spooky place to begin with. It has a rich folklore of ghoulies, ghosties, and long-legged beasties. Besides that, when James was an infant, his father, Lord Darnley, was murdered. It was suspected that his own mother, Mary Queen of Scots, had participated in the murder. You can see how such events would make James a bit skittish. Apparently it would be quite easy to get James believing in witches, demons, werewolves and the like. He could easily be provoked to launch a full blown campaign against witches.

And that is exactly what he did, beginning with the ill-fated Geillis Duncan.

“Art Thou a Witch?”

In the autumn of 1590, David Seton began to notice that his maid Geillis, in addition to her strange healing powers, had a habit of sneaking out of the house in the middle of the night. He came to the conclusion that this must mean Geillis was a witch. He confronted Geillis, yelling “Art thou a witch?” She claimed she had only been tending the garden. Seton became angry, accused her of lying, and proceeded to torture her to get the truth.

Torture was, apparently, within Seton’s legal rights as her employer. He was determined to get a confession out of her. When Geillis would not talk, Seton, with the help of some other men, employed a device called the Pilliwinks.

The Pilliwinks, also called thumbscrews, was a tool that consisted of two metal pieces, screwed together, like a vise. The victim’s hand was placed inside it, and the device was tightened in an effort to get the victim to confess. Fingers could be crushed, and those subject to the Pilliwinks often suffered permanent damage to their hands.

Still, Geillis did not confess.

Seton then employed another method of torture. He tied ropes around her head and, like the Pilliwinks, tightened them steadily with a vise. The rope torture could lead to fracturing of the skull and facial burns. Her head must have been throbbing, and no doubt the poor girl could not think straight. But still, Geillis did not confess.

Seton then employed another terrifying method. He made Geillis strip naked, and all the hair was shaved from her body. He then “examined” her, looking for “witch marks.” It was believed that when the devil took a woman and made her a witch, he would mark her, like a branding, as she would be forever in service to him. Of course, any normal person could have a number of marks upon their body, such as birth marks, bug bites, scars, etc. But, in this case, it was the finding of a so-called “devil’s mark” that finally broke Geillis.

“All I Have Done Is By Witchcraft”

Seton found a mark on Geillis’ neck. With this, the maid gave an elaborate confession, admitting “All I have done is by witchcraft.” She claimed she was, in fact, in league with the devil, and had given up her mortal soul.

After enduring the Pilliwinks and skull warp, no one is really sure why the finding of the mark made her confess. Some historians believe that Geillis may have been sneaking out at night to meet a lover. The devil’s mark may have been a hickey, and Geillis, embarrassed, may have made up the elaborate confession. Maybe she figured she was already defeated. In the hyper religious and pious world of 16th century Scotland, running out to meet a young lover in the middle of the night would have been her ruin. After undergoing so much torture, she probably just gave up. Historians also agree that this type of “examination” for “witch marks” was akin to rape. Geillis would have been terrified, confused, and utterly unable to defend herself.

At any rate, Geillis’ confession was notable because it was the first occasion of a Scottish witch claiming to have been in league with the devil. It would lead to a horrible, bleak time in Scotland, resulting in the unjust deaths of many people, both women and men.

In November 1590, Geillis was brought to prison in Edinburgh.

Once in prison, Geillis, most likely under pressure of more torture, admitted to being part of a coven. Her confession got more elaborate. She then claimed she had attended a meeting of witches, with over two hundred people present. The meeting was held at The Kirk of North Berwick on Halloween night. The devil had been present. The purpose of the meeting was to plot how to bring about the demise of King James VI, as instructed by the devil. She gave authorities the names of at least eight other women and men who were supposedly involved. And not only that! Geillis claimed that her coven was working with the witches in Denmark, and together they had conjured the sea storms!

A confession like this would have no doubt left James salivating. All his suspicions were coming true! James then insisted upon meeting with the witches in person and hearing their stories, so he could draw his own conclusions. Needless to say, he decided they were all guilty.

Could it be? Did the witches really have magical powers, and a plot to take over the kingdom of Scotland? Or was this the overactive imagination of superstitious king who had witnessed one too many conspiracies?

Young, Fair, and Damned

Sadly, Geillis remained in prison for another year, until it was decided she would be burned at the stake. She was only about eighteen years old.

On the day of her execution, Geillis tried to retract her accusations, claiming that David Seton had forced her to confession with his extreme torture methods. But at that point, no one paid attention to her.  She was executed on 4 December 1591 at Castlehill, Edinburgh. 

The other accused women, once arrested, revealed more names, and in total, over one hundred people were arrested in what came to be known as the North Berwick Witch Trials.

All of these women had unique stories, which I will save for another installment in my Witch of the Week series.

But for now, let’s have a moment of silence to honor Geillis. A teenager. A maidservant. A girl with no money or resources. A girl whose only “crime” was having a natural gift for healing, and possibly a weakness for a boy who may have been her lover.

What do you think of Geillis Duncan? Let me know in the comments!

“Beware the Ides of March.”

All about the Ides of March! Have a great day.

Histories and Mysteries


So warned the soothsayer to Julius Caesar in Shakespeare’s famous play.   Alas poor Julius — he did not heed the advice and was stabbed to death in the senate. The bloody, infamous event occurred on March 15, 44 B.C.

Have you ever wondered what the ‘Ides’ of March actually means?

It was a designation for the middle of a month. Apparently, the ancient Romans did not number days of a month sequentially from first through last day. Instead, they divided the month and counted days from three specific points. These points were called the Nones (5th -7th of the month) the Ides (13th to 15th) and the Kalends (1st of the following month).

The divisions were determined by the full moon, which normally occurred between the 13th and 15th of the month. Thus the Roman senate would have actually gone ‘loony’ under the full moon.

After the death of…

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Honoring Imbolc

Histories and Mysteries


The celebration of Imbolc is always a bit of a puzzle.   Here in the Midwest, at the beginning of February we are still in winter’s deep freeze, with plenty more snow on the way.

And yet. There has to be some hope of spring.  Enter Imbolc, the cross quarter fire festival that should help motivate us. This festival is often underplayed and really shouldn’t be. We all need a pick me up from winter doldrums. And besides, it is also a help to anyone suffering from post-Christmas depression 🙂

What It Is

The word ‘Imbolc’ (pronounced ‘immolk’ – silent b) literally means ‘Ewe’s milk’.  It also can mean ‘In the belly’.  Thus Imbolc traditionally marks the lambing season, the laying of seed, pregnancies (both physical and metaphysical) and new beginnings.


Imbolc is like a breath of fresh air, the very first stirrings of spring that help get us through…

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New Year’s Traditions and Superstitions

Histories and Mysteries

With a New Year right on the horizon, we hope to conjure up the luckiest, healthiest, most prosperous one ever!  Fortunately, there are plenty of superstitions to help us along the way. If you’d like to know more about the weird stuff people all over the world do, read on!

Want to get rich in the coming new year? Try eating some pickled herring at midnight on New Year’s Eve. This practice comes from Poland, Germany and Scandinavia. It is believed that the silver color of the fish, representing real silver, will help you acquire money.

Speaking of silver, another Slavic tradition holds that if you wash your hands with a piece of silver on New Year’s Day, you will be prosperous for the year to come. You can also fill the sink with coins and water, then wash your face with the coin saturated mix.

In Romania, it was…

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A Beltane Tale Podcast

Twas a time of dancing and daring and drinking of elderflower wine;
of bewitchings and hauntings and faeries and all things divine.”

With the feast of Beltane nearly upon us, I am thrilled to announce that my story “A Beltane Tale” has been featured in Housecraft – The Witching Hour’s podcast!


Many thanks to the ladies of Housecraft for choosing my story, and much gratitude to producer Kate for your oh-so beautiful reading of the tale.

Beltane is an ancient Celtic fire festival, celebrated on or around May 1st. For those of you who are not familiar — fear not! The Mothers of Mayhem will take you through every aspect. (Warning: adult content. Not for kids.) This festival is all about sex and the Witchy Ladies get a bit spicy. So listen at your own risk! 🙂

Robin Hood and Maid Marian: What happens in the forest, STAYS in the forest.

Tune in anywhere you get podcasts or HERE:

Have a Blessed Beltane!

“The Maypole” 1899 by Clarence H. White

Wings & Fire, Our New Horror Anthology, Hits Number One!

Wings & Fire: A horror anthology with 23 stories from 15 authors (The Box Under The Bed Book 5) by [Dan Alatorre, Roberta Eaton Cheadle, MD Walker, Frank Parker, Dabney Farmer, Allison Maruska, Jessica Bakkers, Heather Kindt, Susan Lamb, Geoff LePard, Marjorie Mallon, Adele Marie Park, Alana Turner, Betty Valentine, Christine Valentor]

If you have been reading my blog for a while, you may know that I write for the BOX UNDER THE BED horror series. We have, to date, released five books, all of which I am very proud. Our latest release, WINGS & FIRE came out on December 31. I am ecstatic to announce that this week, our book hit the Number 1 slot on Amazon’s “Hot New Releases” page!!

WINGS & FIRE features 24 all-new, creepy, scary stories by 16 authors. (Two by me!) Other contributors include best-selling authors Dan Alatorre, Roberta Cheadle, MD Walker, Frank Parker, Dabney Farmer, Alison Maruska, Jessica Bakkers, Geoff LePard, and more!

“From the creators of the #1 bestselling horror anthology THE BOX UNDER THE BED and its #1 bestselling sequels DARK VISIONS, NIGHTMARELAND and SPELLBOUND comes WINGS & FIRE, a horror anthology with 24 stories from 16 authors.”

Two high school girls discover an old book with strange powers that causes strange things to happen. As they learn more, they realize the book may be a link to a mystical world and the people who “reside” there.

What follows is a trip into eerie places full of madness and murder, where readers encounter all things horrifying, hellish and haunting. Expect blood drinking, strange spells, love obsessions with the dead, battles of good vs. evil, and some dark, inexplicable events of real life history.

If you like my blog, you will love my horror stories! Copies available on Amazon.

And for those that can’t get enough of the macabre, please check out our previous release, SPELLBOUND, full of all-new, weird and wonderful witchy tales…

Winter Solstice: The Mystery of Newgrange

Imagine an ancient monument, built 1000 years before the Egyptian Pyramids and a few hundred years before Stonehenge, by prehistoric peoples who had not yet invented paper or measuring tools.

Imagine further, that this monument was engineered with such precision that the light of the sun can only enter its inner chamber on one specific day of the year — that is, the Winter Solstice.

Strange but true. This is the phenomenon of Newgrange.

Happy Winter Solstice!

Today, December 21, marks the longest night and also the return of the Sun in the Northern Hemisphere. Apparently, our ancestors knew the patterns of the sun very well, and had them in mind when they built this fantastic structure.

A Site for Sore Eyes

Newgrange is a Neolithic tomb, located in Bru na Boinne, County Meath, Ireland. It consists of a large mound, built of alternating layers of earth and stones. Grass grows on top of it. Some historians have suggested it resembles a womb. The mound measures 76 meters (249 feet) across and 12 meters (39 feet) high. It covers 4,500 square meters (1.1 acres) of ground. Within the mound is a chambered passage, that stretches for 19 meters (60 feet), about a third of the way into the center. At the end of the passage are three small chambers and a larger central chamber with an arched roof.

It is huge! To get some perspective, take a look at this photo, with tourists.

The stones used for its construction were not just any old stones. Rather, they came from places far off, and it seems a great deal of thought and effort went into the choice of them. Some boulders were brought from the Wicklow Mountains — approximately 70 miles (113.9 km) south of the site. Others were brought from the Slieve Croob Mountains — 67 miles (107 km) to the north. Still others were brought from the Mourne Mountains, 59 miles (94 km) away. Whoever built the monument would have needed to locate and choose the specific rocks, then move them from the far off mountains, most likely via the Irish Sea, and then transport them inland to Bru na Boinne. Not an easy task.

And these boulders were not lightweight!

According to Professor Michael J. O’Kelly, who began excavation of Newgrange in 1962, “there are 97 kerb stones, none weighing less than a ton, and some weighing considerably more”. The whole of Newgrange contains “about 200,000 tons of stone” total. Gigantic boulders were placed at the entranceways and at the curbs. Interestingly, they were carved and decorated with spirals and various art, which are interpreted as ancient Druidic symbols.

The House of the Rising Sun

The innermost burial chamber of Newgrange was engineered so that no light can reach it, except on Winter Solstice. On that day alone, a single sunbeam penetrates the passageway thru a special “roof box”, constructed specifically for this event. It was Professor O’Kelly who discovered this in 1967.

Back in the 1960’s, the phenomenon of the Winter Solstice at Newgrange was not widely known. In fact, it had been reduced to gossip by some of the locals.

During the early excavation, these locals would tell Professor O’Kelly of a tradition, that the rising sun, at some “unspecified time”, would light up the triple spiral stone in the end recess of the chamber. No one had actually witnessed this, but it continued to be a strong legend, and one that greatly interested the Professor. In 1967 he decided to find out for himself if it was true.

The Professor reasoned that, due to a southeast orientation of the sun at Winter Solstice, and the positioning of the sun in relation to a special “roof portal” in the monument, the “unspecified time” of light just might be on this day.

Some minutes before sunrise on the 21st of December, 1967, Professor O’Kelly stood alone in the darkness of the chamber at Newgrange, wondering what would happen. To his amazement, minute by minute, the chamber grew steadily brighter and a beam of sunlight began to enter the passage. O’ Kelly wrote of this beam “lighting up everything as it came until the whole chamber – side recesses, floor and roof six meters above the floor – were all clearly illuminated”.

Needless to say, the Professor was in awe. According to ancient legends, Dagda, the sun god, had actually built the tomb.

Upon witnessing the beautiful passing of the sunbeams, O’Kelly began to wonder if this was true. He stood rigid and transfixed. Professor O’Kelly continued his excavation and observations. At Winter Solstice, 1969, he wrote:

“Between the bright sky and the long glittering silver ribbon of the Boyne the land looks black and featureless. Great flocks of starlings are flying across the sky from their night time roosts to their day time feeding places. The effect is very dramatic as the direct light of the sun brightens and casts a glow of light all over the chamber. I can even see parts of the roof and a reflected light shines right back in to the back of the end chamber.”

History and Mystery

The whole phenomenon is really amazing, when you consider the circumstances. As I stated before, Newgrange was built in 3200 BCE. It predates the Pyramids of Giza and Stonehenge. They were not writing on paper, they were not planning things architecturally. As far as we know, they had no telescopes of space rockets. If you look at the size and precision of the monument, you will see that even today, with U-haul trucks and modern tools, it would be hard to build! Plus they would need to have a sophisticated understanding of the earth’s movement, which, even today, is difficult for NASA!

So this begs the question: Who built Newgrange?

I don’t believe for one minute that ordinary humans built this thing, not to mention rubes running around in loincloths who had no way to measure the galaxy. (Doesn’t it seem seriously IMPOSSIBLE?)

So who?

Were they some sort of alien race? Were they gods, goddesses, or the faeries? Were they super-humans? (Even the Bible speaks of giants, and men who lived to be hundreds of years old.) And if so, what happened to our human race? Was it somehow diminished?

Well, the history of Newgrange has always remained strong within Irish mythology. The place is steeped in magic and legend. The Tuatha de Danaan (tribe of the goddess Dana), were said to have built it. This ancient faerie race had supernatural powers, and we assume they’d have little trouble moving 200,000 tons of stone down from mountains.

Newgrange is believed to be a burial site, and indeed, human bones have been discovered within it. But it was not an ordinary mausoleum. It is thought to be the tomb of the chieftains and Irish kings, the great Dagda Mor, his son Oengus of the Brugh, and the great god Lugh of the long arm, father of the hero Cuchulain. One myth claims that Cuchulainn was conceived at Newgrange, when Lugh astro-traveled and “visited” the maiden Dechtine in a dream while she slept there.

(The god Lugh was quite a character. It would not surprise me if he had a hand in the construction. He was very powerful and popular. For more about Lugh, read https://witchlike.wordpress.com/category/lugh/)

Newgrange was imbued with magical properties. It was said the site could produce endless quantities of food and drink, especially ale and pork. One legend states that two pigs would come forth from the chambers, one living and the other already dressed, cooked, and ready to be eaten.

Suppression and Repression

You might be wondering, as I did, why it took so long to excavate this monument. The thing was built some 5200 years ago, yet they waited until the 20th century to explore it.

It seems the site was forgotten and nearly abandoned through suppression, repression, and prejudice. Irish language, literature and mythology were nearly lost under English rule. The Norman Invasion of 1169 CE brought the English to Ireland, and their control over the people became increasingly oppressive. The great mound of Newgrange, along with other ancient monuments, stone circles, myths, legends and Irish culture in general, were neglected. The people of Ireland suffered greatly, and in fact, did not begin to liberate themselves until the 20th century, with the rise of the Irish Republic.

However, in 1699, a Welsh scholar by the name of Edward Lhwyd was making a tour of Ireland. He heard of the tomb and became interested. Other scholars followed. Throughout the 18th century the site was visited by a number of explorers who speculated about its origin and purposes. In 1882 the monument was taken under care of the government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland through the Ancient Monuments Protection Act and conservation efforts were initiated.

Professor O’Kelly’s work began in 1962 and lasted until 1973. In 1993, Newgrange was designated a “World Heritage Site” by UNESCO. Before Covid, people could visit Newgrange through the Bru na Boinne Visitor’s Center. It attracted approximately 200,000 tourists each year. Because so many folks wanted to see the Solstice sunrise, a lottery was held. Each year they had thousands of applicants.

Fortunately (for us, anyway) because Covid prevented anyone from attending Winter Solstice this year, the stewards decided to give the world a live stream! If you are curious about the miracle of Newgrange, watch below. And if you have any ideas about who built Newgrange, let me know in the comments!