Mermaids and Muses

 

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“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 steamy 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

 

 

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New Year’s Traditions and Superstitions

 

With a 2019 right on the horizon, we hope to conjure up the luckiest, healthiest, most prosperous New Year 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!

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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!