The First Harvest: Lughnasadh or Lammas?

 

Happy August! As the golden sun winds down and the days ever so slightly grow shorter, we find ourselves in the midst of the first harvest feast also known as Lughnasadh or Lammas. This is a cross quarter festival which falls midpoint between the Summer Solstice and the Autumn Equinox in the northern hemisphere.

Some folks call this holiday “Lughnasadh.” Most folks call it “Lammas.” That is probably because Lughnasadh is a mouthful to pronounce. Plus it has a weird spelling. Most people are intimidated by the very sight of the word. Some folks might remember the old movie with Meryl Streep called “Dancing at Lughnasa” and they try to pronounce it.

Be not afraid.

Lughnasadh (also spelled Lughnasa) is pronounced LOO – NAH -SAH. Lammas is pronounced LAH-MIS. The two festivals are similar, and although they are celebrated on the same day, they are not exactly the same.

Lughnasadh & The Sun King

Lughnasadh dates back to prehistoric times. The name “Lughnasadh” is derived from the Celtic sun god Lugh. (Pronounced LOO.)  The name Lugh literally means “The Shining One”. As the sun god, Lugh’s special mission was to make sure the sun stayed under control and did not burn us up. Hence, this time of year, with the sun’s first fading, is associated with him.

But Lugh was more than a mere sun god.  He was also the patron of all craftspeople, including metalworkers, musicians, magicians, healers, and warriors.

As a Jack of All Trades, Lugh covered a lot of territory and was an extremely popular god. He was the elected King of the Tuatha Dé Danann, the tribe of Fair Folk.  Lugh was a master builder, harpist, poet, warrior, sorcerer, metalworker, and physician. He was also extremely beautiful and eternally youthful.  It’s easy to see why he was worshiped and loved throughout the Celtic world.

Lugh has an interesting history which is necessary to tell in order to fully understand how Lughnasadh came to be.

Forbidden Birth, Unlikely Death

Although Lugh was obviously a golden child, the circumstances of his birth were weird. His father was Cian of the Tuatha Dé Danann, and his mother was Ethlin, daughter of Balor, of the Fomorians. It should have been a great match, uniting the two tribes. However, there was one severe problem; Ethlin was forbidden, by her father Balor, to ever  have children. This was because Balor had once been given a prophecy from a sorcerer that his own grandson would kill him.

Balor’s solution? Simply lock his daughter in a tower and keep her away from all men.

Needless to say, it did not work. Ethlin had already fallen in love with the powerful and dashing Cian. He, using sneaky Rapunzel tactics, found ways to get into that tower.

When Ethlin became pregnant, the Tuatha Dé Danann knew there would be trouble. Balor would seek to kill the baby.  And so, Cian and Ethlin were whisked away to a nearby island. When Lugh was born, he was given to the harvest goddess Tailtiu (pronounced TAL-TU.)  It was she who raised the baby Lugh, and turned him into the fine young man he became.

Alas, poor Tailtiu! She had a lot of work to do. As grain goddess, she had to clear all the fields of Ireland for planting, then reap the harvest. As she grew older the burden became too much. One morning on the first of August, the poor goddess collapsed from exhaustion and died.

Lugh wanted to honor his foster mother. She had requested that only celebrations, with happiness and no grieving, should commemorate her death. And so Lugh held a great harvest feast. There were games, drinking and merry-making. (Arguably this could have been the first Irish wake. These wakes were known to last days on end, mired in celebration.)

Perhaps this festival should have been called “Tailtiuanasadh.” (That would have been an ever bigger tongue twister!) But instead it was named after Lugh, the beloved god who threw the party. It is always associated with the harvest, as Tailtiu was a grain goddess and Lugh was the god of the waning sun.

Lammas — All About the Bread

Some time in the 4th century AD, the Emperor Constantine advanced Christianity in Roman dominated Europe and the British Isles. A lot of Pagan practices, as followed by the Celts and other tribes, were outlawed. The festival of Lughnasadh was probably forbidden, or at least it went underground. However, the first harvest morphed into a new holiday called Lammas.

The word Lammas literally means “loaf mass”. This made sense because, as wheat was harvested in late July and early August, a lot of bread baking took place.  Lammas-tide was not just a one day festival, but was considered more of a baking season. It began on August 1st and lasted for a few weeks.

What’s In a Name? 

Lammas also has an interesting history and entomology. In medieval times the feast was sometimes known in England and Scotland as the “Gule of August”.  The true meaning of “gule” is unknown, but in Welsh there is a term Gŵyl Awst which means “feast of August”. Gule may have just been an alternate spelling. The word gule is also associated with “gullet”. This also makes sense, as all that bread goes into the gullet!

In the medieval agricultural year, Lammas also marked the end of the hay harvest that had begun after the Midsummer Solstice.  At the end of hay-making the tradition was to release one sheep into the meadow. (A rarity because this was not lambing season.)  Anyone who could catch the sheep could keep it. This leads to the suggestion that “Lammas” could also have been derived from “lamb mass”, an additional celebration at the harvest.

Shakespeare famously mentioned Lammas, as Juliet’s birthday in Romeo and Juliet.

“Even or odd, of all days in the year,
Come Lammas-eve at night shall she be fourteen.”

Thus, the festival of Lammas was well known and would have been easily recognizable to Elizabethan audiences.

Regardless of how the words and legends came to be and to be remembered, one thing is certain: Lugnasadh/ Lammas is a great time of year to celebrate!

In Modern Times

We may not all be farmers, and we do not live as close to the land as our ancestors did, but there are still many ways to honor the harvest.  Even the modern day city dweller can hit the local farmers market for some corn on the cob, or the local bakery for a fresh loaf of bread. (Or if you are skilled in the kitchen, bake your own!)

Have some fun today, and also over the next few weeks as “tide” sets in. Thank the earth for her abundance. Thank the overlooked goddess Tailtiu for her hard work and sacrifice. Create an altar dedicated to Lugh, Tailtiu, or Mother Earth.  Offerings could include corn, tomatoes and berries. Candles could be yellow and orange, the colors of the sun. Carnelian, amber, citrine and other yellow crystals are great decorations. Sunflowers are always perfect, as are marigolds and daisies.

Whatever you do to celebrate, have a safe, happy and healthy Lunasadh/ Lammas-tide! Blessed be.

 

 

Mermaid Mentors

 

“I must be a mermaid… I have no fear of depths and a great fear of shallow living.”
― Anais Nin

“The mermaid is an archetypal image that represents a woman who is at ease in the great waters of life.” — Anita Johnson

“Mermaids don’t drown.” ― Suzanne Palmieri

The mermaid represents a woman’s physical and emotional depths. The Siren’s song, in mythology, was typically a thing to be feared, for sailors who followed it often ended up in a shipwreck. And yet, without these mesmerizing mythical creatures, our seas would be sadly lacking.

Mermaids not only weather the storm, they welcome it. Mermaids live in duality, embodying humanness along with a wild, animalistic and instinctual side. They are as changeable as the water itself, and yet they are ancient, a thing of complete and utter permanence.

How long have mermaids been around? Forever! Which is one reason why we should heed the wisdom of these divas from the deep.

The archetype of the mermaid has appeared in the folklore of every culture and people. They have popped up in the South Seas, the Greek Islands, the tundras of Siberia, the coasts of Africa and sun worshipping Scandinavia.

In Brazil, tribute is paid to the water goddess Yemoja. From Syrian legend came the Dea Syria, mother of all mermaids.  Slavic cultures have tales of the Rusalka, water nymphs that can both harm and help humankind. Lithuanian folklore tells of  Jurate, who lived in an amber palace beneath the Baltic Sea.

The far east also has no lack of mermaids. Korean mythology tells of Princess Hwang-Ok from an undersea kingdom of mermaids known as Naranda. There is also the tale of Kim Dam Ryeong, the Korean mayor of a seaside town, who once saved four hundred mermaids from being captured by fishermen. Chinese literature dating as far back as 4 B.C. speaks of mermaids who “wept tears that turned into pearls.”

Folklore from the British Isles is peppered with tales of mermaids. The Norman chapel of  Durham Castle, built by Saxons, contains an artistic depiction of a mermaid that dates back to 1078. (One must wonder why busy Saxon masons would bother to etch a mermaid into the wall. They had cathedrals to build!)

In Cornwall, there is a legend of a mermaid who came to the village of Zenmor.  There, she listened to the singing of a chorister named Matthew Trewhella. The two fell in love, and Matthew went with the mermaid to her home at Pendour Cove. Needless to say, he was never seen again.  On summer nights, it is said the lovers can be heard singing together.

In 1493, Christopher Columbus reported seeing three mermaids near the Dominican Republic.  Henry Hudson (of Hudson River fame)  recorded in his captain’s log in 1608  that his crewmen had spotted  a mermaid in the river. The sailors claimed that from the navel up “her back and breasts were like a woman’s” but when she dove under the water “they saw her tail, which was like the tail of a porpoise.”

In 1614, Captain John Smith (of Jamestown Colony and Pocahontas  fame) recorded a mermaid sighting in his captain’s log. While sailing near the coast of Newfoundland, Smith wrote that he saw a woman “swimming with all possible grace.” He stated: “Her long green hair imparted to her an original character that was by no means unattractive.” (Green hair!)  He also claimed “from below the stomach the woman gave way to the fish.”

Are mermaids real? Would these prominent men lie, and risk looking ridiculous in their logs?

A more recent mermaid sighting occurred in 2009.  In the seaside town of Kiryat Yam, Israel, dozens of other people reported seeing the same astonishing sight: a mermaid frolicking in the waves near the shore.

A mermaid’s endeavors are not to be taken on by the shallow of heart. She moves in synchronicity with the ocean’s tides, rides the waves, rules the waters.   The mermaid is passionate and generous, sometimes even granting wishes.  Just don’t cross her; she can be deadly.

I hope summer finds you near an ocean, lake, pond or pool. (And if you happen to see one of these watery women, approach with caution.)

These beautiful portraits were done by contemporary Russian artist Victor Nizovtsev. Have a lovely, magical and mer-aculous day!

 

 

Mermaids and Muses

 

“When first the sisters had permission to rise to the surface, they were each delighted with the new and beautiful sights they saw; but now, as grown-up girls, they could go when they pleased, and they had become indifferent about it. They wished themselves back again in the water, and after a month had passed they said it was much more beautiful down below, and pleasanter to be at home.

Yet often, in the evening hours, the five sisters would twine their arms round each other, and rise to the surface, in a row. They had more beautiful voices than any human being could have; and before the approach of a storm, and when they expected a ship would be lost, they swam before the vessel, and sang sweetly of the delights to be found in the depths of the sea…” —  Hans Christian Andersen, The Little Mermaid

This lovely 1886 painting titled The Sea Maidens was done by female Pre-Raphaelite artist Evelyn De Morgan (1855-1919.)  It was meant to depict the mermaid sisters in Andersen’s fairy tale.

Evelyn De Morgan (born Mary Evelyn Pickering)  was home schooled and began her drawing lessons at the tender age of fifteen.  Her work dealt mostly with mythological, biblical and literary themes. She was greatly influenced by Pre-Raph giant Edward Burne Jones. At age eighteen she enrolled in the Slade School of Fine Art at University College London — although she, like many other Pre-Raph artists, objected to the formal curriculum and never finished her degree.

Evelyn married the ceramicist William De Morgan in 1887. The couple were pro-peace, pro-women activists, objecting to wars and advocating for women’s right to vote.

If the mermaids in this painting all look alike, there is a reason for it — they are all actually the same model, Jane Mary Hales.  Interestingly, according to ART UK, Evelyn had a “very close and passionate relationship” with Jane.  When she died, Evelyn was actually buried in between her husband, William, and Jane, at Brookwood Cemetery in Surrey.   Jane is referred to as “companion, model and muse”.

Pretty heavy stuff for a Victorian woman, eh?

Evelyn once wrote in her diary: “Art is eternal, but life is short. I will make up for it now, I have not a moment to lose.”

Evelyn de Morgan

 

 

New Year’s Traditions and Superstitions

 

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 practices and traditions that can help us along the way. If you’d like to know more about the weird stuff people all over the world do to help ring in the new year, read on!

Want to ensure yourself financial freedom in 2019? 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 believed that the object you have in your hand when the clock strikes midnight will indicate the most important plan of your life in the coming year.  Following this line of thinking, if you have money in your hand, you should be prosperous. If you are holding your loved one’s hand, the new year will see you happy in personal relationships. If you are toasting with a glass in your hand, your cup runneth over – it will be an all around joyful year.  If you are eating something yummy, you will never go hungry. This tradition should allow a lot of room for creativity — so pick something that is important to you personally — and grab it before midnight 🙂

The Romanians also believed that a wish you make at the stroke of midnight will most likely come true!

From the American South comes another food tradition — Hoppin’ John.  Originating from French, Caribbean and African influences, Hoppin’ John is a stew made with pork, black eyed peas and greens, said to bring good luck and prosperity.

Why is it called “Hoppin’ John”?  It is said this stew is so good that children, when being served, can’t sit still in their seats, and John “comes hopping” when his wife cooks it.  For a great Hoppin’ John recipe click HERE.

If you don’t have time to prepare the entire stew, at least take in some green food on New Year’s Day. Spinach, collard greens, kale, or green peas will do. All of them are said to represent money and ensure prosperity.

But New Year’s Eve is not all fun and games. There are many superstitions regarding bad luck as well.

On New Year’s Day, make sure nothing leaves your house. This means NOTHING, not even garbage. Putting things out of the house is indicative of rejecting possessions, so if you throw things out, you just may lose something dear to you.

It is bad luck to hang a new calendar on the wall before the new year actually begins, so wait until Jan 1st to hang your calendar.

Also to be avoided – washing clothes and washing hair. It is believed you will ‘wash out’ important things or people in your life. I once heard a story about someone who did laundry on New Years Day and had a loved one die shortly after, so take heed!

It is definitely bad luck to take your Christmas tree down before January 6th, Feast of the Epiphany.  (During this time, our ancestors were practicing the Twelve Days of Christmas — receiving partridges in a pear tree and so forth…) So leave that tree up! On New Year’s Eve, take all the gold, silver and gemstones you own, and place them under the tree. Leave them there until January 2nd. This presentation of precious metals and jewels will ensure that you will be gifted and prosperous in the year to come.

Be careful about whom you invite into your home on New Year’s Day!  In Scotland, it was believed that the first person to cross your threshold after the stroke of midnight should definitely be a tall dark handsome man.  Blondes, redheads and women were considered bad luck.  Yes, it sounds biased…  However, this belief originated in Medieval times, when Scotland was susceptible to Viking invasions. The last ones they wanted showing up on their doorsteps were blonde Scandinavian savages, armed with blades and shields.

To make things even luckier, the Scots also hold that the dark haired man ought to bring coal, salt, shortbread and whiskey – all essential elements for prosperity.

Romania, too, believed that a woman should not be your first guest on New Year’s Day. Women were considered bad luck, but men ensured good fortune. (This probably originates from back when women were expected to have a dowry in order to be wed — and men collected the dowry.) So, invite the guys over!

In Brazil,  it is traditional to throw white flowers in the ocean. These are considered an offering to the water goddess Yemoja, who is said to control the seas. Offering her flowers will ensure her blessings for the coming year.

If you are looking to have a baby in 2019, Italians hold that wearing red underwear on New Year’s Eve will help. This is because the color red is a symbol of fertility. Not to mention, a pretty and sexy color too. So bring on the Victoria’s Secrets!

The Greeks have an interesting custom involving pomegranates. The pomegranate symbolizes fertility, life, and abundance. Just after midnight on New Year’s Eve, it is customary for Greeks to smash a pomegranate against the door of their house — and it is said that the number of pomegranate seeds that end up scattered is directly correlated with the amount of good luck to come.

I have heard of a custom similar to this, but the pomegranates can be scooped into your mouth, and the seeds spit out. Count your future blessings by the number of seeds you do not swallow!

Speaking of swallowing, the Russians have an unusual custom. Folks write their wishes down on a piece of paper, burn them with a candle, and drink the subsequent ashes in a glass of champagne. (Sorry Russia, this one doesn’t sound safe to me!)

Many Pagan traditions hold the custom of writing your desires on paper, burning them in a cauldron, then scattering them to the wind – thus putting all your desires out to the universe. Doing it right after the stroke of midnight is considered extremely powerful.

In Chile, necromancy takes center stage.  New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day Masses are held, not in churches, but in cemeteries. It is believed that this custom literally invites the spirits of the dead to join their families in festivities.

You may have tried kissing under the mistletoe, but in Ireland they take it one step further. It is customary for single women to sleep with a mistletoe under their pillow on New Year’s Eve. The magical mistletoe will cause them to dream of, and then find, their future husbands.

In my home town of Chicago, we have our own little tradition, called “The Polar Bear Plunge”. This is organized officially by the Chicago Polar Bear Club. Each New Year’s Day, they put on bathing suits and jump in Lake Michigan. Yes, our weather here is c-c-c-cold, and this tradition is c-c-c-crazy. However, Polar Bear Plungers do it for a good reason. Each swimmer recruits sponsors to pay him/ her money for this bravery, and then the money is given to people in need. Since its initial plunge in 2001, the Club has raised over $270,000!

Whatever you do this New Year’s Eve, have a safe, loving and healthy celebration!

Happy 2019!

 

 

 

 

 

Lussi Nacht

 

On the night of December 13th, the dark witch Lussi (counterpart to the benevolent  Santa Lucia) flies on her broom with the Wild Hunt of Odin.

Beware gentle humans! For if you encounter this merry band of hunters, they just may abduct you to the Underworld.

But hey, it might not be a bad thing…  🙂

In Norse mythology, the Underworld was known as ‘Hel’  or ‘Helheim’ (Hel’s realm.)  It was presided over by a goddess, also called ‘Hel’.  But don’t confuse the Norse Hel with the Christian concept of Hell. Although the names have the same  Germanic language roots, the two places have nothing in common. Nordic Hel was definitely NOT a place of eternal suffering.

In Hel, you’d get to hang out with Odin, eat, drink, fight, love, celebrate and practice magick. In the Norse underworld, life apparently continued in much the same way as it was known to Vikings on earth.

Nordic pagans had several different forms of the afterlife, including Valhalla, Folkvang (Freya’s realm) and the underwater abode of Ran. However, no afterlife community was a place of punishment, nor of reward. The afterlife was, in fact, teeming with actual life. The dearly departed would dwell there indefinitely.  Eventually they might be reborn as one of their own ancestors, or as an elf.

So if Lussi and her band of hunters do happen to carry you off tonight, have no fear.  It’s sure to be a win -win situation! (Cue diabolical laughter. Mwuah-ha-ha!)

Happy Lussi’s Night!

Lussi Nacht 1

 

 

 

 

Hekate’s Night

 

She is our chaperone to the Underworld, the keeper of the keys, a deity of dream states and liminal spaces. Hekate is one of the most powerful dark goddesses, with ancient roots tracing to Greece, Egypt and Asia Minor. She is the patron of witches, mothers, fishermen, soldiers, sailors, virgins and the restless dead. She presides over crossroads, entrance-ways and turning points in life.

November 16 marks her feast night. It is a perfect time to honor her!

Who is Hekate? 

This goddess has a complicated history, and a job description that is equal to no other!  In brief, she is generally thought of as a goddess of the Greek/ Roman pantheon. There are, however,  conflicting stories about her origin.

Some legends say Hekate was the daughter of the Titans Asteria (Goddess of the Stars) and Perses (God of Destruction.)  She is therefore considered a direct descendant of Gaia (Mother Earth) and Nyx (Goddess of Night.)  She appears in Homer’s Hymn to Demeter, and in Hesiod’s Theogony where she is promoted strongly as a great goddess.  There is also evidence that she had popular followings in ancient Thrace, which includes what is now Bulgaria and Turkey.

When Hades kidnapped Persephone and took her to the Underworld, her mother Demeter went searching for her, and it was Hekate who led the way with her torches. Hekate has always been a helper, a guide and a teacher.

She was important enough to have her face on coins! This one dates back to 30 BC. It is part of the Vatican collection and is described as:  “Bust of Hekate, with crescent on forehead”.

Hecate was one of the main deities worshiped in Athenian households as a protective goddess and one who bestowed prosperity and daily blessings on the family.  In the “Chaldean Oracles” — a  group of spiritual writings dated from the 3rd century, Hekate is regarded as a powerful deity with a hand in ruling  over the earth, sea and sky as well as the nether worlds. She was greatly favored by Zeus, who reportedly bestowed her with some of his holdings…  One story claims that Hekate supported the Olympians in a battle against the Titans (thus “switching sides”) and gained favor with Zeus. When helping us with practical problems, Hekate is known to switch sides in order to see every aspect and help us reach a decision.

She is most often depicted in triple form, to represent the Maiden, the Mother and the Crone. Her vision is all encompassing. The triplicity she embodies is also her ability to see the past, present and future all at once.

Hekate is, by nature, a Jill-of-all-trades.  She doesn’t fit neatly into one pantheon, and for this reason many eclectics have come to regard her as a “go to” goddess. According to the Oxford Classical Dictionary: “she is more at home on the fringes than in the center of Greek polytheism. Intrinsically ambivalent and polymorphous, she straddles conventional boundaries and eludes definition.”

Hekate’s Animals

Hekate is associated with all wild animals, but her favorites are dogs, snakes, crows, lions, horses, bears, wolves and frogs.

Frogs:  In ancient Egypt, the frog represented fertility.  There was a powerful midwife called Hekit (a prototype of Hekate) who aided in the birth of the gods. Frog amulets were used to ensure a safe birth. Frog amulets were also used in death.  People placed them on mummies in the belief that this would help guide them in the afterlife.  Hekit had one such amulet which bore the words “I am the Resurrection.”

Snakes: Snakes shed their skin, which is also a physical representation of rebirth. Hekate is often pictured with a snake entwined around her neck or arm.

Dogs:  It is believed that women were the first to domesticate dogs, because dogs were companions of the Goddess in many cultures. As nurturers and keepers of the hearth, women saw the potential of a new best friend, and took the animals in.  Dogs always accompanied Hecate. Some people believe that dogs are able to see the dead (ghosts) and other spirits. The ancients were also very impressed with canine keenness of other senses, particularly the sense of smell. Hekate is often pictured with the three-headed Cerberus (another Triplicity!) the dog who guarded the gates of the Underworld.

If Hekate is calling you, it is said that a black dog may cross your path, so be on the lookout!

Other Symbols:

Plants associated with Hekate are roses, poppies, garlic, mandrake, saffron, yew, and willow.

Gemstones are onyx, hematite, lapiz lazuli, moonstone and topaz.

Her colors are black, orange, red, silver and gold.

Her foods are apples, raisins, currants, dates, figs, cheese, wine, bread and cake.

She is associated with knives, swords and daggers (possibly because as a Goddess of change, she is known to “cut” unwanted things from our lives.)

She is pictured often with torches, presumably to help guide in dark spaces and navigate the Underworld.

She carries keys, a symbolic representation of entering new phases.

She is often found at the crossroads – a symbolic place of choice, decision and change, as well as the gateway to the other world, other dimensional realities, dream states and liminal spaces.

How can you honor Hekate?

At sundown on November 16, devotions to Hekate can begin.  (Other days to worship Hekate are at the new and full moons, August 13, November 1, and the 29th day of each month.)

The ancient Greeks made offerings of food and wine to Hekate. They would take their gifts to the crossroads, say a prayer or invocation, and leave them there for her.  In modern times we can do something similar. Create an altar to Hekate. Decorate it with her favorite colors and stones. Leave gifts of apples, raisin bread, wine, cheese, cake or anything you think would appeal to her. Like dark chocolates! 🙂

If you are ambitious, and happen to have a good crossroads in your neighborhood, you may even want to leave the offerings outside.  It is believed that if a homeless person, or an animal eats the offerings, they are also under Hekate’s protection. She will be pleased and bestow many blessings upon you!

Have a beautiful and blessed Hekate’s Night!

 

 

 

 

Hot New Horror Releases!

 

Dark Visions: an anthology of 34 horror stories from 27 authors (The Box Under The Bed Book 2) by [Alatorre, Dan, Ruff, Jenifer, Maruska, Allison, Park, Adele, Walker, MD, Allen, J. A., Farmer, Dabney, Cathcart, Sharon E., Kindt, Heather, Lyons, Bonnie]

Our anthology, DARK VISIONS, made Amazon’s list for Hot New Releases and bestsellers!

Image may contain: text

It features thirty-four spine-tingling tales from twenty-seven authors. (Three by me 🙂 )

Kindle downloads are only 99 cents, or FREE with Kindle Unlimited. With only thirteen days till Halloween, now would be the perfect time to order yours! Get your copy HERE.

Read ’em if you dare.

 

 

 

 

 

Loch Ness Monster!

 

From ghoulies and ghosties
And long-leggedy beasties
And things that go bump in the night,
Good Lord, deliver us.” – Scottish Prayer

Do you believe in Nessie, the legendary serpent that is said to dwell in the great loch of the Scottish Highlands? If so, you may owe your belief to an Irish monk known as Saint Columba, who is credited with its first sighting.

Medieval Monster

On this day, August 22, way back in 565, Columba was visiting Scotland, attempting to convert the Picts to Christianity.  It is said he was traveling near Inverness, on his way to see the King when, at the banks of the River Ness he encountered some of the locals burying a man.  Columba asked what had happened. The locals explained the man had swum out into the loch to retrieve his boat, which had come loose from its moorings. There, he was attacked by “a great beast” that dragged him underwater. The Picts, being warriors and not afraid to do battle, sailed out and attempted to rescue the victim.

But it was too late. The swimmer was already dead.

Columba was upset by the story and determined to stop the villainous beast.  According to biographies, Columba sent his follower, Luigne moccu Min, to swim across the river and try to retrieve the boat.  As one might suspect,  the serpent came out again and attempted to kill Luigne. However, Columba intervened, making the sign of the cross and ordering the monster to go away.

After that, Nessie never attacked anyone again.

However, he apparently still resides in Loch Ness. Several sightings of the monster have been reported since then.

Further Evidence…

In October 1871, a man named D. Mackenzie claimed to have seen “an object resembling a log or an upturned boat, wriggling and churning up the water”. The object moved slowly at first, then mysteriously disappeared.

In 1885, Roderick Matheson reported seeing a monster in the lake – “the biggest thing I ever saw in my life, with a neck like a horse and a mane.”

Interestingly, the water horse, or Kelpie, has always been a part of Scottish mythology. Kelpies are known to lure victims into the water where they drown and devour them. Kelpies are also able to shape-shift into humans, sometimes taking on “normal” lives upon dry land until they return to the lake, usually after having fooled or killed their human counterparts. Some folklorists think that Nessie is, in fact, a Kelpie.

In 1888, Alexander Macdonald reported seeing a “salamander like” creature swimming in Loch Ness, and in 1895, Salmon Angler, a hotel keeper, described “a great horrible beastie”.  Perhaps it scared away his patrons?  In 1903, F. Fraser reported to have seen a beast with a “hump like and upturned boat” while out rowing. He also claimed that no matter how hard he rowed, he could not get closer to the beast. (Hard to imagine he would want to!)  In 1908, John Macleod claimed to have seen a creature that was “thirty to forty feet long, with a long tapering tail and an eel like head” lying in the water.

The Loch Ness Monster Official Website  reports over one hundred similar sightings. Several occurred in the 1920’s and 30’s, with another resurgence in the 1960’s. There have also been many in the 1990’s and early 2000’s.  The descriptions vary, some indicating the monster to have one hump, some as many as four humps, with a body as long as forty feet or as short as seven feet.

Could there be an entire family of Nessies, some small and some large?

 

The Loch

Loch Ness itself is an unusual place. It is the largest body of fresh water in Great Britain. Some interesting facts:

  • There is more water in Loch Ness than all the other lakes in England, Scotland and Wales put together.
  • It is twenty two and a half miles long and almost two miles wide, with a depth of 754 feet.
  • The bottom of the loch is as flat as a bowling green.
  • It holds 263 thousand cubic feet of water which is around 16 million 430 thousand gallons of water.
  • The loch never freezes and its temperature stays at 44 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • This can cause the loch to steam on very cold days. It has been estimated that the heat given off by the loch in a winter is the equivalent to burning 2 million tons of coal.

Could this environment house a family of pre-historic dinosaurs? Maybe so!

Monsters on Film

According to the official website, twenty eight substantial photographs and film footage have been taken of Nessie.  One of the most interesting was taken in 1935 by Dr. MacRae, a retired physician. Reportedly, this film “clearly shows a creature with a long neck, a pointed head, narrow eyes, small horns on its head and the familiar 3 humps. Further sequences also show the monster splashing, turning and rolling in the waters while exposing a long scaly tail.” Dr. MacRae, now deceased, is said to have stored his film in a London bank vault, with explicit instructions stating that the footage could not be shown “until such time as the public takes such matters seriously”.

I think the world is ready for it! Release the film 🙂

The last sighting of Nessie reported on the website occurred in November of 2011, when George Edwards, a coast guard skipper, claimed to have observed a “slow moving hump” in the water. He took this picture, and stated: 

“It was slowly moving up the loch towards Urquhart Castle and it was a dark grey colour.  It was quite a fair way from the boat, probably about half a mile away….I have friends in the USA who have friends in the military. They had my photo analysed and they have no doubt that I photographed an animate object in the water.”

Why has the world been so obsessed with Nessie? For hundreds of years he has lived in our folklore. It seems highly unlikely that so many people could have observed so many aspects of the Loch Ness monster without there being at least some truth to the stories.

I’m a believer.

What do you think of Nessie?

 

Many miles away something crawls from the slime
At the bottom of a dark Scottish lake…

Many miles away something crawls to the surface
Of a dark Scottish loch…

 Many miles away there’s a shadow on the door
Of a cottage on the shore
Of a dark Scottish lake.” — From Synchronicity by Sting

And finally, this video shows a photo taken in 2016 by someone named Jimmy who claims to have seen the monster walking around in the fields near the loch. Hope you like it!

 

 

 

 

A Tale of Lughnasadh

 

He came to me as an infant. Washed like driftwood in the sea’s tide, from which his own grandfather, King Balor, had thrown him. O, it was a vile act! An attempt to drown the poor boy! The old king had his reasons. Years before, a Druid had prophesied: “Any grandson of Balor will cause the death of him.”

Such a warning was not to be taken lightly. Druids were the seers, the soothsayers of all things known and unknown. Yet Balor’s solution was foolish! The most foolish thing I had ever heard in my life. Imagine preventing a pregnancy by holding your daughter hostage in a tower, thus keeping her from all male contact. Even one with the brains of a sheep should know such a plan would never work!

But I get ahead of myself.

My name is Tailtiu. I served the land, the grain and the harvest. It was I who made all of Erin’s Isle green, bringing rain and wind, making the fields fertile.

It was I who ripened the wheat, sprouted the potatoes, made the apples fall and the berries go plump. I had ample work — enough tasks of my own, just to keep the land in good order so people would not starve. The last thing I needed was a baby at my breast to complicate my life.

And yet it was.

King Balor was a giant, a mighty sorcerer who was able to cast many spells and kill with his evil third eye.

Few things frightened him, but when he heard the Druid’s prophecy he was taken aback. The Druids were never wrong. And for this reason, Balor decided; it must be arranged that his grandson would simply never be born.

Balor had but one daughter, a beautiful lass by the name of Ethlin. So lovely was she that every lad for miles around offered his fortune for her hand in marriage. Yet Balor refused them all.

“Given the slightest opportunity, that girl shall get herself with child and birth an evil whelp,” he said. “One that would as soon take a dagger to me as blink an eye. O no! I shall prevent it at all costs! The fair Ethlin will be locked in a tower, where no male will ever get to her. There she shall live, forever barren. In doing this, I shall retain my own power and wealth.”

And so it was.

The girl Ethlin was locked in the Mor Tor, a crystal structure that one could neither climb nor descend into. Its walls were thick as a citadel, made of pure diamond, the hardest glass, which could not be broken with pick nor hammer. It had but one key for entrance which Balor  kept only to himself, hidden in the darkest depths of his castle dungeon, its location known to him alone.

There, in the tower, Ethlin lived out her days in solitude, attended only by the twelve midwives who served her. Balor had commanded that there be no talk of men, and his daughter should forget they ever existed.

She had no sunlight, no fresh air, no diversions, no pleasure. Only the steady work of needlepoint, such to make her eyes bleary and her fingers numb.  ‘Tis a wonder the lass did not go mad with boredom!  A life such as that was no life at all.

“When am I to be free?” she would ask, to which her midwives would be silent, for they feared the wrath of Balor.

Far out in the glen, in the land of dusk and faerie, where time and space cross and all things are possible, there is an Otherworld. In that Otherworld dwell the The Tuatha Dé Danann  – the Tribe of the goddess Danu.  And in that tribe there was a lad.  Brave and handsome he was, and young and strong, with a will of his own and much admiring of Ethlin. His name was Cian.

“How difficult could it be,” Cian asked me, “to climb that tower, to enter into it, to rescue the lass from her condemnation?”

“Not difficult at all,” I answered.

It was a mere sleight of the body. Balor, in his anger and scheming, had deeply underestimated the likes of me, the likes of Cian, the likes of the entire Tuatha Dé Danann. We are, you see, present in one place, and then we simply are not. This is the nature of our Otherworld.  I gave Cian a potion of magic herbs with a drop of dragon’s tears; as he drank it I uttered these words:

“Eye of thistle, heart of drake

Through this charm a lover make

A path to his desired space

Full of lust and full of grace

With this potion may you prove

Dedication and true love!”

In an instant Cian had taken to the sky; in another instant he had entered  through the walls of the crystal tower.

The very sight of him set Ethlin’s heart a-flutter, for the girl was young and ripe. She had never known the touch of a man. And such a man Cian was! Strapping and stunning, with chiseled cheekbones, dazzling eyes and locks of hair that put Samson to shame.  His manners were impeccable, and chivalry graced every bone in his body. The Mor Tor quickly became their love nest. Within weeks Ethlin was with child.

Balor, for his part, had no concern for his daughter. Foolish man! He never visited, left all dealings to her midwives. But now! The surprise that awaited him would be one most displeasing.

Nine months later the child was born. We named him ‘Lugh’ for Light. No other name could suit such a child, for he was radiant as the sun itself. As the offspring of the two most gorgeous beings in Eire, he was bound to be beautiful – but the baby Lugh far exceeded mere beauty.

When Balor got word of the birth he was furious.

In the dead of night, Balor slunk into the tower, whittling his dull key to the door and ascending the crystal staircase. He kidnapped the baby and whisked him away to the edge of the sea.

Balor stood on a monstrous cliff, overlooking the waves that crashed below like a liquid glacier. Without so much as a thought, he tossed the child in, hoping the ocean would crush him to a watery grave.

It was Manannan mac Lir, the god of the sea, who found the baby.  The infant was near death, bobbing and thrashing in the cresting waves, his lungs waterlogged and breath scarce. Manannan mac Lir knew immediately this was a very special child. He cradled the baby in his sturdy sea arms, wrapped him in a cloth of clean cambric, then brought him to me.

“You, Tailtiu, are a goddess of the earth. If anyone can suckle this child and give him renewed life, it shall be you.”

He was right of course. And even though Ethlin was his natural mother, it was not safe that she keep him, for Balor would surely track her down and attempt to kill the child again. I bid Ethlin and Cian flee the isle. They were young and could produce many more for their family. Lugh would be mine.

And so I raised him. He became my foster son, the Celtic god of the Sun, a radiant and celestial being. Prince Lugh was much loved and much revered, known for his kindness and benevolence.

He was, in fact, so loved that the Tuatha Dé Danann eventually chose him as their king. As such he was obliged to fight great battles.  It was in the Battle of Mag Tuired that the Druid’s prophecy once again came into question.

Lugh was required to fight Balor.

The two met on a battlefield of mud and weaponry, a wasteland of gouged bodies, severed limbs and rotting blood.  Balor had managed to kill many a soldier with his tricks and spells and evil eye, but now his grandson confronted him.

Lugh hurled a great spear, all the while shouting, “Forgive me, Grandfather, for what must be done!”

The spear then hit Balor, smack in his third eye. Balor fell to the ground, flailing like a fish on a hook. Yet the spells of Balor were still viable, and he managed to kill more of the Tuatha Dé Danann with his magic.

Having no choice, Lugh then pulled his sword and in one swift stroke, beheaded his own grandfather. The Druid’s prophecy was complete.

It was victory for the Tuatha Dé Danann. Through this, Lugh was given sacred powers. He become the god of skill and craft, of honor, truth and law. He was granted eternal radiance and eternal youth.

As for myself, by this time I was growing old, my twilight years upon me. My endless duties had left me strained. I had cared for the boy.  I had cared for the earth. As the years passed, the land became wild and ornery. Sometimes it would not even produce a potato for me, thus leaving the people in famine. Yet I did my best. Finally, in my feebleness, I could no longer serve the greenery, the plants and grain I loved so well.

My health fell ill and I began to wither back into the land from which all living things come. I, like a crone of autumn, faded into that golden haze that marks the end of the long summer. Upon the first day of August I breathed my last.

To mark my death, my foster son called for a great celebration. He saw this fitting, as he wanted to pay homage to me and all I had meant to him.  There would be no funeral dirges, no veils of mourning, no maudlin processions.  Instead, there was sumptuous feasting, a bounty from the harvest, dancing and song, all forms of revelry and games.

From far away in the spirit world I watched. And I was most pleased. So pleased, in fact, that I wished this feasting and revelry could occur every year, on the first day of August, as a holy day, not only for myself but for the land, the harvest, and the people.

My wish was granted.

Because the festivities had been orchestrated by Lugh, it was only proper that this holy day ever after be called “Lughnasadh.”