Happy Summer Solstice!
To the calendar, it's the first day of summer. Kids are free from school, vacations
are planned and long, lazy, days at the beach are enjoyed.
Astronomers see it as an astronomical event caused by the earth's tilt on its axis
and its motion in orbit around the sun.
Long before calendars and astronomers, the Summer Solstice was a festival celebrated by those who are now referred to as pagans. They lived and survived by the seasons and became experts at reading
and understanding the sky, the stars and their movements.
I've wanted to write a post about the origin of the word pagan and how it's evolved from it's initial meaning to the way it's viewed in recent times for a long time, and today is your lucky day!
The original Latin pagus means from the country district. It changed to paganus, or rustic villager. Today we would say hillbilly or country bumpkin. At the height of Roman and Greek mythology, those who still lived isolated in the woods and worshipped their "old" gods, rejecting Zeus, Apollo, Diana, & Artemis were considered Paganus. Far from a derogatory term, the Greeks and Romans thought them a bit silly for holding on to less powerful gods than their own.
As Christianity grew, the tables turned & the Greeks and Romans became the pagans, and were ridiculed for again holding on to old, outdated gods. Diana (Artemis), a beloved and powerful goddess, became one of the Christian leaders fiercest rivals. Worshippers (especially the Ephesians) were loathe to give Diana (Artemis) up for a new god. You can read ACTS 19:28 in the Bible for a full account. But still, pagan, wasn't considered an "evil" term.
During the Roman Empire, some historians believe paganus also meant civilian, the opposite of military. Christians referred to themselves as Soldiers of Christ or miles Christi. Non-Christians became known as pagani, or non-soldiers. There was still no implication of denigration.
Sometime in the fifth century, BC, the term pagan became equated with all non-Christians, or 'heathens' and those who were self-indulgent, had loose sexual practices and worshipped satan (which translates to not worshipping the Christian god.)
My timeline is simple and I'm sure the evolution of the term "Pagan" and the practices that went along with it, were more involved and have some missing pieces to it. But I thought it interesting. I love history and especially how words, traditions and celebrations come to be.
To celebrate the first day of summer I thought I'd share some
Fun Facts About the Solstice:
1) "Solstice" is the Latin word for 'sun stands still.' For days before and after the Solstice, the sun appears to stand still in the sky.
2) On the summer solstice, thousands of people flock to Stonehenge, the ancient stone site in England. When the sun rises, it creates the illusion that the sun is balancing on one the main stones.
3) Pagans would celebrate the longest day with bonfires and feasts. It's also referred to as 'Midsummer.'
3) Mar's solstice occurs a few days later in June than Earth's.
4) Uranus' (giggles, yes, I'm still 12 years old sometimes) solstice lasts a whopping 42 years! They also have 42 years of winter. I suppose we should stop complaining about our winters.
5) Venus and Jupiter barely experience a solstice due to the of the their poles.
Summer Solstice Blessings and...
"Always be kinder than necessary." ~ J.M. Barry
Welcome to the BRAIN to Books
Cyber Convention & Book Expo
Brain to Books was founded in October 2014 by Angela B. Chrysler in an effort to unite and organize undiscovered authors. Today, under the Brain to Books brand, Ms. Chrysler helps other undiscovered authors learn the ins and outs of marketing and publishing, by providing the very thing undiscovered authors need: opportunity.
With this in mind, the Brain to Books Cyber Convention was born.
For more info click here:
Brains to Books includes nine genres, ranging from Fantasy & SciFi, to Romance and YA. I'm participating in the horror genre and my guest today is author Angela Yuriko Smith, discussing Penning the Darkness: The Therapeutic Benefits of Horror.
Dark poetry is a brilliant way to release negative emotions. Poetry allows us to tell the truth while retaining our privacy. I've used poetry in this way for my latest collection, “Escape Claws.” In a combination of narrative and poetry, I share my experiences growing up in haunted houses. While there were many, I specifically cover four houses, where they are and include photos. My hope is that others sharing similar experiences will know that they aren't alone. For myself, it's a personal coming out of sorts. It's my self affirmation: I have seen some terrifying things. I am not crazy.
I used a different approach for “In Favor of Pain,” my first published collection of poetry. The message of the book is that no one can avoid pain, so we may as well embrace it when it makes us stronger. If a hurtful experience helps me to grow into a better person, I am “in favor of pain.” In many of the poems, I was beginning to admit that there were real monsters in my childhood closet—and hovering over my bed. It was therapy for me as I wrote my way through the shadows and memory to find the light. The result was cathartic.
Poetry is a powerful tool for self change and growth, but there is nothing as satisfying as a fictional murder. I advise all my creative writing students to kill people they don't like in their work. Irritating and unpleasant people make perfect monster food and cannon fodder. The writing sessions where we murder someone we have a distaste for always produce the highest, most satisfying word counts. The side benefit of fictional murder is therapeutic. It's good for the soul to write 'bad' things.
I discovered this for the first time years ago when I had a terrible boss at a big box store. He regularly humiliated all of us, blamed his lack of organization on those under him and blatantly disrespected women. We all hated him.
Things had reached the point where his underlings were half-seriously discussing tossing a blanket over his head and beating him up in the parking lot one night. I came dangerously close to pushing him backwards down a stairwell myself. I realized I needed to manage my anger.
That evening I went home and wrote him into a short story called the Injustice League. Three managers die in that story, but I took particular pleasure and care to describe my real life manager. His death was violent and deeply satisfying. I wove details from his real office into my story so when his broken teeth were scattered among shattered glass and crushed peppermints, we all knew who I was talking about.
The therapeutic effect for me was instant. The manager never changed. His tirades, idiocies and insults continued until the day he was finally fired. He still tossed demeaning comments at me regularly, but I always smiled cheerfully back, picturing the bloody smear his face had made on his computer screen—fictionally of course. The only thing that had changed was my attitude, but it made all the difference.
The beautiful thing is that life is full of heartache and struggle, providing those that aren't afraid to tap into it with an endless amount of fresh material and energy. Fictional death of your enemies is a positive and empowering step towards releasing pent up negative energy. Just change the names and details enough so your story doesn't get taken as a threat and reap the therapeutic benefits of writing bad.
From “Escape Claws:”
From the beginning
I struggled to climb
with fingers bleeding
as they scrabbled on stone
numb from more than pain
groping for handholds.
I wished for escape claws.
I made do with what I had.
I look back and see your face
shining like moonlight in the night
stars sliding down your cheeks
and I reach back to help
and I see my bleeding palm
and I hope my damaged hand
doesn't scare you.
I sing to you then
with my rusty voice--
a lullaby that has slept
for too long
dying in my throat.
Together we can scale
these bitter walls.
Hand in hand ...
Hand over hand ...
Hands full of sand ...
until we collapse
beneath the open sky
and beyond the reach
of this shadowed well.
Our skin will steam
as sunlight burns away
the long, crying cold
and the lullaby
will be born again
in our warmth.
ESCAPE CLAWS - Congratulations, releasing today and available here.
IN FAVOR OF PAIN - 99 cents for Amazon Kindle here.
Angela Yuriko Smith is a multi-genre author and journalist, and is also appearing this weekend in the B2BCyCon Cover Wars, the Horror Blog Hop, Book Expo, and various B2BCyCon Panels.
Follow Angela on Twitter
Check out Angela's Facebook Page
Visit Angela's website
Thank you to my guest, Angela Yuriko Smith for sharing some of
her beautiful poetry with us.
For a complete listing of the participants for the Horror Genre, click http://b2bcycon.com/horror/
"Always be a little kinder than necessary." J.M. Barrie, author of Peter Pan
Sure, blame the little people. While Leprechauns are considered full of mischief and slightly grumpy, they're not necessarily evil.
But my guests today do dwell on the darker side of the Green Isle.
Could it be they aren't happy with St. Patrick?
The man we celebrate today is credited with banishing all the snakes from Ireland - which is really a fancy way of saying, he forced the Pagans to convert to Christianity or be exiled. There are a few theories that lay claim to the fact
he may have caused 800 Druids to be killed, including two Druids Princesses, who died immediately after they were baptized by Patrick.
But I couldn't find any real concrete proof.
But we're not here to talk about that.
Slide over a stool, pour yourself a pint and let me introduce you to:
DULLAHAN, which translates to 'dark man" and reminds me of one of my favorite characters, the Headless Horseman from "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow." The Dullahan, carries his head in his left hand, high up in the air, which enables him to see for miles and sniff out the spot where someone is about to die. Riding his black steed and carrying a human spine as a whip, he'll arrive at the house or spot that someone will soon be departing and call his/her name. If you happen to hear his call, but aren't in the house of the dying, don't let Dullahan see you, he'll reward you for your nosiness by tossing a bowl of blood in your face. Where he keeps this gory accessory while riding a horse and hands full, I couldn't say. But I'll take his word for it.
Please welcome, the BANSHEE (woman of the fairy mound). Occasionally, Dullahan and Banshee decide to have a date night and are seen together, a terrifying sight, she riding next to him in a black cart pulled by six black steeds. Usually on her own, though, she can appear as a ugly hag or beautiful young woman, but either way she has long, wild unruly hair, often red or orange that 'shimmers like wild fire."
While Dullhan summons the dead, the Banshee warns of death with three blood curdling wails. There's a saying: If you hear the Banshee you're considered special. Some meet her at eighteen, some at 54. Let hope we never hear her at all...
Finally, that group of haggard, bone thin souls with bat like wings hugged to their body, keeping to themselves in the corner are the SLAUGH, aka The Dead Irish Sinners or the Underfolk. The Slaugh swarm in from the west looking to enter the dwelling of a dying person, in order to steal their soul. After Christianity arrived in Ireland, it was imperative that they grab the soul before the Last Rites were administered. They definitely were not a fan of St. Patrick. To this day, people in Ireland shut and cover all their windows facing the west, when someone is dying.
There are many more fascinating demon myths in Irish folklore, but I'm running low on Guinness (who knew Celtic demons liked to drink?) and had to keep the guest list to a minimum. I'll be more prepared next year on St. Patrick's Day!
Irish saying of the day:
“May the enemies of Ireland never eat bread nor drink whiskey, but be afflicted with itching
without the benefit of scratching.”
Happy St. Patrick's Day!!
February is Women in Horror Month.
To celebrate, I've been participating in the #WiHM Blog Talks, organized by Wendy Howard.
Today is Day 5 and I've written some thoughts on the final discussion topic: Torture.
Psychological Torture - Debbie Christiana
You don’t want Hannibal Lector in your head. The scene where he makes the man in the cell next to him swallow his tongue is one I’ll never forget.
As a lover/reader and writer of horror (dark fiction), I find psychological horror/torture the most intense, terrifying and yet, my favorite of all the sub-genres.
I’m fascinated that the human mind, while our greatest asset, can so easily turn against us and become our worst enemy. The fact that someone else can burrow so deep in our mind, turn it upside down until we second-guess our sanity and sometimes do things we wouldn’t ordinarily do, is mind-blowingly creepy. (Pardon the pun).
I tried my hand at psychological horror in a dark short fiction story in an anthology that I published last year:
Wayne is a serial killer. Then he takes Charlotte. She refuses to shed a tear or to beg and plead for mercy. Wayne will hit her, but when he inches close to her in a threatening manor, she head butts him. Determined to break her and near the end of his rope, Charlotte nestles her way into Wayne’s mind, sharing a grisly secret of her own.
What do you if your so-called victim is darker form of evil than you are?
The idea came when I was sent a link for a dark short story contest. The host (who was an avid horror lover and didn’t scare easy) wanted something so terrifying and unique that it would make her leave the lights on at night. She challenged us all to scare her like she’d never been scared before. The deadline loomed and I had nothing like that, so I declined. That night, Wayne and Charlotte visited me. Not in a dream, I was awake, but like so often is the case, ideas come when least expected. They were a disturbing couple and I wrote the story (not well, lots of editing followed) in two days because I wanted them out of my head and on the paper.
The cliché advice is “write what you know”. I don’t know about psychological horror first hand, but I do know that Wayne and Charlotte scared me. And that’s what I wrote about.
The feedback from this story has been good. The comments tend to lean toward “You seem so normal, what the hell’s wrong with you?”
I take that as a compliment.
Shameless plug: You can find the story I refer to in the post in my collection of short dark fiction: CURIOUSLY DARK TALES here on Amazon for 99 cents!!
Thanks to all the awesome authors who participated in this event, to Wendy Howard for organizing it, and to all the women
who write, direct, act and create horror for the world to enjoy!!