Friday the 13th, Harvest Full Moon and Notorious Events!

 

Happy Friday the 13th!

As some of you may know, today is no ordinary Friday the 13th. We are also blessed with a full moon, known as the Harvest Moon (so christened by Native Americans and coinciding with the September harvest.) The Harvest Moon is said to be so bright, farmers could actually go out at night and reap their summer harvests beneath it.

A full moon occurring on a Friday the 13th is a bit of a phenomenon in itself. We haven’t experienced this since October 13, 2000, and there will not be another one until August 13, 2049. So be sure to celebrate this rare occasion, harness this full moon power and perform whatever festivities you so choose.

September 13th is no ordinary day either. Some pretty rare and phenomenal events have happened on this day, and some significant characters share this birthday. For example:

On this day in 1224, Saint Francis of Assisi is said to have been affected with a stigmata. Forty year old Francesco went off to pray at the lonely mountain of Alvernia. He planned on undertaking a 40 day fast in order to prepare himself for the Feast of Archangel Michael, the most powerful of angels.  It was during this time that Francesco received the condition known as “stigmata” — the Sacred Wounds of Christ appearing in his hands, feet and side.

According to Catholicism.org “The wounds Jesus gave him stayed in his hands, feet and side, and continually bled for two more years.” When the bleeding finally ceased, Francsco died, at the age of 42.

Speaking of famous Italians, Cesare Borgia, Italian nobleman, politician and spy, was born September 13, 1475. Cesare was the bastard son of  Pope Alexander VI, child of the Pope’s long term mistress Vannozza dei Cattanei. (It was pretty common back then for popes to have children.)

Cesare grew up to be unscrupulous and terrifying in his quest for power. He was groomed by the Church and originally held a position as Cardinal of Valencia at the tender age of 18, but he abdicated to become a war strategist. He is said to have murdered his own brother Giovanni. The two men shared the same mistress, Sancha of Aragon. (Sancha was actually married to their other brother, Gioffre Borgia! You can’t make this stuff up!) It was rumored that Cesare may have been jealous Giovanni’s involvement with her, and also his military position.

Interestingly, Sancha, also known as the “Jezebel of Naples” was thought to be a witch. After being imprisoned in 1503 she somehow charmed her way out of an execution and went on to live a productive life as the guardian of her young nephew Rodrigo, son of Cesare’s sister Lucretzia.

Cesare was promoted in the military and given the title Duke of Valentinois, which led to his nickname “Valentino”. He ruthlessly commanded mercenaries and Papal armies, bloodthirsty and horrendous in his ambitions.  He was the  inspiration for Niccollo Macchiavelli’s novel The Prince, which has been a toolbox for power mongers ever since (including King Henry VIII!)

For his notorious spying activities, Cesare is often called James Bond of the 15th century.

Who doesn’t love Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Fantastic Mr. Fox, James and the Giant Peach and The Witches? The author of these children’s classics, Roald Dahl, also entered our world on this day, September 13, 1916. Born in Cardiff, Wales, to Norwegian parents, young Roald was educated at the Cathedral and Repton schools. He was no stranger to the barbaric practices of canings and hazings, often receiving punishments for his pranks, or subject to bullying by upperclassmen. After graduation, he worked for the Shell Petroleum Company, and during WWII served in the Royal Air Force.

Dahl’s books are known for their unsentimental outlook, use of the macabre, and their dark comedy. They often feature villainous adults and sweet underdog children who are victorious in the end. Perhaps they are a bit reminiscent of his caning and hazing days at Repton, where he was often the victim of cruelty.

Beware the Weird Sisters and their book of spells!

Speaking of chocolate factories, today is also the birthday of Milton Hershey, the chocolate tycoon and founder of the Hershey Company. Milton was born on September 13, 1945 in Derby Pennsylvania.

Gotta love Hershey!

And don’t forget the music! Also born on this day in New Orleans, 1953, was Larry Shields, an American jazz clarinetist. Larry was one of the players in the Original Dixieland Jazz Band.

So there you have it! Today is no ordinary Friday the 13th. Tonight would be a great time to do some moon gazing, eat some chocolate, listen to jazz and read a copy of The Witches.  Braver souls may want to channel the spirits of Cesare Borgia or Saint Francis. Whatever you do, have a safe, healthy and happy Friday the 13th.

 

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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!

 

 

 

 

 

International Fairy Day!

 

Shakespeare was a believer. Are you?

June brings a long line of holidays. Not only do we have the Solstice, but also Saint John’s Eve (June 23), International Pink Day (June 23) and finally, the grand slam, June 24, International Fairy Day!

It’s a heady time of year.  Everything is in bloom, the seasons are changing, the air is full of lush, hypnotic smells and the veils are lifted. Everyone gets a little crazy.  Poets dream and lovers love. June is still the most popular month for weddings.

Ever wonder where we get the name ‘honeymoon’? Honey that is gathered under the full moon in June is said to be the most potent. In Medieval times it was used to make a magical mead served at weddings, specifically designed to bless the newlyweds.  Hence the name ‘honeymoon’.

The magic of the month did not escape Shakespeare. In A Midsummer Night’s Dream, he created three weddings and a reunion between Oberon and Titania, the Fairy king and queen.

Shakespeare had a lot of inspiration.

In the sleepy, backwoods town of Stratford, fairies were never far away.  Folks believed in  all kinds of superstitions, including changelings. Fairies were said to kidnap healthy human children and in place of them leave a sickly ‘changeling’.  Boys were particularly in demand, and families took precautionary measures to guard them.

Terrified that the fair folk would come and kidnap their male children, mothers in Stratford kept their sons dressed in gowns and did not cut their hair till the child’s seventh birthday! (Seven being the age of reason.) The boy was then finally put in pants. This was called ‘breeching’. They even had a little ceremony for it.  (Apparently, they thought the fairies would somehow miss this…)

Have you ever wondered about those weird, overlapping, thatched Tudor roofs? Well, there’s a fairy superstition behind them!

Some historians say that overlapping roofs  were designed to block the moonlight. This was because people believed the fairies could manipulate moon’s energy to cause insanity — or at least pixie-lead them for the night. The fairies could cause illusion, make you mad, turn you into an animal or bring you into the Other-world.

And then you never know what might happen!  Titania has been known to trap a man or two in her bower…

But it wasn’t all bad. Shakespeare’s fairies may have gotten a bit mischievous, yet they always gave a blessing in the end. Indeed, some of the fairies were more humane than humans! (At least they did not stab Caesar in the back…)

TITANIA: “First, rehearse your song by rote 
To each word a warbling note: 
Hand in hand, with fairy grace, 
Will we sing, and bless this place.”

OBERON: “Now until the break of day, 
Through this house each fairy stray. 
To the best bride-bed will we, 
Which by us shall blessed be.” — A Midsummer Night’s Dream, V.I

For more about fairies, witches, aliens, and their symbiotic relationships, click here.

Have a fantastic fairy day, and count your blessings!