Monthly Archives: October 2008

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Thursday thirteen: 13 things about

Halloween is also known as: All Hallows Eve, Samhain, All Hallowtide, The Feast of the Dead, The Day of the Dead, Nos Calan Gaeaf

When Christianity came to England and the rest of Europe, 1 November became All Saints Day – a day dedicated to all those saints who didn’t have a special day of their own. They performed a mass called ‘All hallows mass’ and the night before became known as All Hallows E’en and eventually Hallowe’en or Halloween.

It is thought that the colours orange and black became Halloween colours because orange is associated with harvests (Halloween marks the end of harvest) and black is associated with death.

A pumpkin is really a squash, and comes from the same family as the cucumber.

The biggest pumpkin in the world tipped the scales at a whopping 1,446 pounds. This gigantic gourd was weighed in October 2004 at a pumpkin festival in Port Elgin, Ontario, Canada.

The Irish used turnips as their “Jack’s lanterns” originally. But when the immigrants came to America , they found that pumpkins were far more plentiful than turnips. So the Jack-O-Lantern in America was a hollowed-out pumpkin, lit with an ember.

If you see a spider on this night, it could mean the spirit of a dead loved one is watching over you

To meet a witch, put on your clothes on inside out and walk backward.

On Halloween, villagers would extinguish the fires in their homes, to make them cold and undesirable. They would then dress up in all manner of ghoulish costumes and noisily paraded around the neighborhood, being as destructive as possible in order to frighten away spirits looking for bodies to possess.

The tradition of bobbing for apples is also part of the history of Halloween and is known to have come about from the Roman’s Pomona Day. Romans honored the dead with a festival called Feralia in late October. It honored Pomona , their goddess of fruit trees who was often pictured wearing a crown of apples. During this festival, they ran races and played games to honor the “Apple Queen” and used omens such as apple parings thrown over the shoulder or nuts burned in the fire in order to predict the future concerning their marital prospects. When the Romans conquered the Celts, they combined local Samhain customs with their own pagan harvest festival. Bobbing for apples was derived from this blended pagan celebration.

On the evening before Samhain (another name for Halloween), people left food on their doorsteps to keep hungry spirits from entering the house. Festivalgoers started dressing in ghost, witch, and goblin costumes so that wandering spirits would leave them alone. To this day, these are Halloween’s most popular costumes.

Trick-or-treating is thought to have its origins in a European custom called souling where people would beg for “soul cakes.” and by wearing masks or blackening their faces, it was thought that people were impersonating dead ancestors.

The Jack-o-lantern custom probably comes from Irish folklore. As the tale is told, a man named Jack, who was notorious as a drunkard and trickster, tricked Satan into climbing a tree. Jack then carved an image of a cross in the tree’s trunk, trapping the devil up the tree. Jack made a deal with the devil that, if he would never tempt him again, he would promise to let him down the tree. According to the folk tale, after Jack died, he was denied entrance to Heaven because of his evil ways, but he was also denied access to Hell because he had tricked the devil. Instead, the devil gave him a single ember to light his way through the frigid darkness. The ember was placed inside a hollowed-out turnip to keep it glowing longer.

Werewolves: Truth or fiction?

In vain he attempted to speak; from that very instant
His jaws were bespluttered with foam, and only he thirsted
For blood, as he raged among flocks and panted for slaughter.
His vesture was changed into hair, his limbs became crooked;
A wolf-he retains yet large trace of his ancient expression,
Hoary he is afore, his countenance rabid,
His eyes glitter savagely still, the picture of fury

The Roman poet Ovid, describing symptoms of Lycaon

We’ve all heard about werewolves, the myth of man turning into wolf at a full moon after having been bitten or put under a curse and Hollywood has immortalized this belief, encouraging them through such films as Werewolf of London in 1935 and later, expanding lycanthropy to the transformation into many different other types of animals, not just the wolf.

So what actually is a werewolf or lycanthrope?  Is it a fact based on concrete evidence?  Is it a myth?

The origins of lycanthropy can be traced back to Greek myth in which Zeus transforms Lycaon into a wolf as a revenge for tricking him into an act of cannibalism. Even in the Bible’s Book of Daniel, the great king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar II suffered what we would have called lycanthropy. The widespread belief existed well into the nineteenth century through legends, even some where a reverse lycanthropy occurs. The Beauty and the Beast is an example of this. Another is the most widely know story Little Red Riding Hood.

Becoming a werewolf comes in many different methods:

  • putting on a belt of wolfskin
  • rubbing a body with a magic salve
  • drinking water out of the footprint of a lycanthrope
  • a 16th-century writer believed that Livonian werewolves were initiated by draining a cup of specialty beer and repeating a set formula
  • according to Russian lore, a child born on December 24th shall be a werewolf
  • in Italy, France or Germany, if a man slept outside on a certain wed or fri under a full moon
  • In Portugal, the seventh daughter of a seventh daughter became a witch; a seventh son of the seventh son became a werewolf
  • Satanic allegiances
  • divine punishment

Once a person was seen as a werewolf, there were many methods that could be used to cure the inflicted. The Ancient Greeks and Romans for instance believed that physical exhaustion would purge the malady from the individual. And in medieval Europe, medicine, surgery and exorcism were often attempted, however, many of the cures that were thought to help, such as bloodletting, often proved fatal to the patient. Sicilian beliefs thought that simply striking it on the forehead or scalp with a knife would cure the werewolf and if that did not work/or instead, the werewolf’s hands were pierced with nails. Despite these extreme methods, there were also tamer cures, such as calling a werewolf by it’s Christian name three times or by simply scolding.

These days, though the supernatural existence of werewolves still holds strong, many believe that the legends of vampires and werewolves were used simply as a means to explain serial killings– particularly those involving cannibalisms, mutilations and cyclic attacks. Others have tried to explain it in terms of medical conditions such as porphyria and how symptoms of photosensitivity, reddish teeth and psychosis could be grounds for explaining lycanthropy. Others have pointed out a condition called hypertrichosis, a condition that manifests itself in excessive hair growth; and even rabies. Being bitten could result in the victim turning into one.  Even in the middle ages, some doctors believed that it was caused by an access of melancholy, or an imbalance in humors, the liquid or fluid of the body. Many doctors believed that such melancholy could lead to insanity and delusion; and recommended that the lycanthrope be treated with baths, bleeding, dietary measures and rubbing opium into the nostrils.

No matter which way you look at it, werewolves remain one of the most widespread legends.

Diva Release! Black Opals by Crystal Jordan

Lorna Malone is having a day from hell. She had a one night stand with her best friend, SWAT officer Tyrone Forrester, and had to sneak out before he woke up. Her wild night is making her late to a photo shoot for her biggest advertising agency client, Carraway Jewelers. She stops at a gas station and manages to lock her keys — and a small fortune in black opal and diamond necklaces — in her car.

Tyrone is furious when he finds Lorna left him after their amazing night together. He’s wanted her for years, but he got burned in his last relationship. His ex couldn’t handle his dangerous job, so now he doesn’t do serious, and he doesn’t play for keeps. But with Lorna, one taste is all it takes to convince him that he’s met his match — if he can help her see that her luscious curves make her desirable.

Check it out here!

Vampires: Pt 2. Rabies

All was dark and silent, the black shadows thrown by the moonlight seeming full of a silent mystery of their own. Not a thing seemed to be stirring, but all to be grim and fixed as death or fate, so that a thin streak of white mist, that crept with almost imperceptible slowness across the grass towards the house, seemed to have a sentience and a vitality of its own.

from Mina Harker’s journal

Legend tells us that vampires come out at night. They are night creatures because the sun can hurt and even kill them. They come out at night to seek fresh blood because without it they will suffer agonizing pain and will die. Their bodies dry up due to lack of blood, and new blood refreshes their bodies and gives them energy and certain powers.

Rabies:

Another disease, often attributed to vampire legends is rabies which is caused by a virus transmitted through an infected animal’s saliva, most commonly by bats, foxes and other medium sized animals. Since bats are often commonly associated with vampires, it has been inferred that people who contracted rabies from bats were thought to be bitten by vampires.

Excessive saliva and foaming of the mouth and uncontrollable painful throat spasms, the individual suffers from overwhelming thirst but cannot drink. Restlessness. Agitation. Paranoia. Insomnia. Hallucinations. Even seizures. A person with rabies, left untreated, enter a coma and eventually, die. Sufferers of rabies are also prone to experiencing a hypersensitivity to light, strong smells (like garlic) and noise.

After a person was bitten by a bat, they would show symptoms not unlike vampires– unable to quench their thirst, hypersensitive to strong stimuli, as well, often repelled by light, by bright things — such as mirrors, and by strong odors — including the smell of garlic. Because the virus affects the limbic system, the part of the brain that influences aggressive and sexual behaviour, people with rabies tend to be aggressive and may attempt to bite others. The virus also affects the hypothalamus, the part of the brain that controls sleep. Because of this, many patients suffer from insomnia.

Not only do people with rabies have symptoms strikingly similar to the traits ascribed to vampires, but the vampire legend also originated in eastern Europe in the 18th century — the site of a major rabies outbreak in the 1720s.

Nowadays, vampires are generally seen as fictional characters. However, almost three centuries ago, the concept and word “vampire” were seen as a real threat.

. . .you are too prejudiced. You do not let your eyes see nor your ears hear, and that which is outside your daily life is not of account to you. Do you not think that there are things which you cannot understand, and yet which are; that some people see things that others cannot? But there are things old and new which must not be contemplate by men’s eyes because they know — or think they know — some things which other men have told them. Ah, it is the fault of our science that it wants to explain all; and if it explain not, then it says there is nothing to explain. But yet we see around us every day the growth of new beliefs, which think themselves new; and which are yet but the old, which pretend to be young — like the fine ladies at the opera.

Professor Van Helsing to Dr. Seward

Vampires: Origins Pt 1 Porphyria

. . .I could feel the hot breath on my neck. Then the skin of my throat began to tingle as one’s flesh does when the hand that is to tickle it approaches nearer, nearer. I could feel the soft, shivering touch of the lips on the super sensitive skin of my throat, and the hard dents of two sharp teeth, just touching and pausing there. I closed my eyes in languorous ecstasy and waited, waited with beating heart.

from Jonathan Harker’s Journal

Vampires. Love them. Hate them. They’re everywhere in one form or another. We all know them–mythological undead that feed on the blood of the living. Often described as gaunt and pale, Vampires have dated back from the early Nineteenth Century. Although they have been recorded in most cultures, the term vampire was not popularised until the early 18th century, after an influx of vampire superstition into Western Europe.

But what makes a vampire?

ORIGINS

Porphyria:

In the mid-1980s, police in Virginia arrested twenty-year-old Jeffery Wainwright for murder. The vic? Charles Brownell, a forty-three-year-old brick mason and self-proclaimed vampire and although he called himself a vampire all his adult life, no one took him seriously. After Brownell disappeared for two weeks, neighbours became suspicious when they found a trail of blood outside his apartment. What the police found inside, was a gruesome sight of human organs, tissue and blood. The police suspected Brownell of murdering an innocent then fleeing.

Scientific evidence proved otherwise, finding that the bloody evidence was of Brownell himself. What was most intriguing of all, were that tests of the victim’s liver showed that Brownell had suffered from porphyria, a rare genetic disease in which heme (the red pigment of the blood) is not properly biosnthesized, occurring in 1 of every 30,000 people.

To a sufferer, even mild exposure to sunlight can be devastating, creating lesions of the skin that can be so severe that the nose and fingers are destroyed. Although teeth don’t become longer, the lips and gums were said to recede dramatically. Not only that, but some sufferers were said to become hairy. Could what some people call vampirism simply be a case of porphyria sufferers trying to alleviate the symptoms of their disease? It is thought, that perhaps if a large amount of blood were drunk, the heme in it would supply the missing heme in the sufferer, although this method is not very efficient. Today, porphyriacts are treated with heme injections, however, in the Middle Ages, when injections were impossible, drinking large amounts of blood would have been the only way of getting the necessary supply of heme. Since death can result from heme insufficiency, it is expected then, that personality changes and dementia are psychiatric symptoms would occur.

And because porphyria is genetic, it is noted that many siblings share the same defective gene, with only one showing disease symptoms, creating local pockets of porphyriacs (such as mountainous, isolated Transylvania). It has also been noted that a strain on th system, such as the sudden and major loss of blood, can trigger the disease in a person already genetically pre-disposed.

What about garlic? In vampire folklore, garlic was used to ward off vampires. In many drugs and chemicals that destroy heme, there is a feature in common with the principal constituent of garlic (dialkyl disulfide). Which could result in both a deterrent and an increase of severity.

Of course, although we now know that porphyria patients are NOT vampires, porphyria might have contributed to the origin of the vampire legends.

Thursday Thirteen: 13 favourite quotes

13 favourite quotes:

1. “If you are a dreamer, come in. If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar, a hoper, a prayer, a magic-bean-buyer. If you’re a pretender, come sit by my fire, for we have some flax-golden tales to spin. Come in! Come in!”– Shel Silverstein

2. “Many people hear voices when no-one is there. Some of them are called mad and are shut up in rooms where they stare at the walls all day. Others are called writers and they do pretty much the same thing.” -Margaret Chittenden

3. “A weed is just a plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered.”– Ralph Waldo Emerson

4. “When the light turns green, you go. When the light turns red, you stop. But what do you do when the light turns blue with orange and lavender spots?”– Shel Silverstein

5. “The further one goes, the less one knows.”–Lao-Tzu

6. “The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not ‘Eureka!’ (I found it!) but ‘That’s funny …”– Isaac Asimov

7. “He’s Not Dead, He’s Electroencephalographically-Challenged”– bumper sticker

8. “Character is like a tree and reputation like its shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.”– Abraham Lincoln

9. “There are three rules for writing the novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.”– W. Somerset Maugham

10. “Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.”– Albert Einstein

11. “The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity.”– Dorothy Parker

12. “Be not afraid of growing slowly, be afraid only of standing still.”– Chinese proverb

13. “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”– Albert Einstein

Go team Orange!– Fast Draft

For the past 14 days I have been participating in FastDraft through the Romance Divas.  In the past, I had trouble, perhaps because I was setting the bar too high so this time, I set it lower, and these are the things that I learned through the whole process of it:

1. I can write 5 pages a day.  At first I thought I’d have a hard time but it wasn’t as bad as I expected and I managed to push out 5 pages or more every day, expect one.  Overall, I’m fairly pleased.  I am now at 76k, just 4k away from my goal of 80k.

2. The words flow easier at work, in my cubicle.  Maybe it has something to do with less distractions… although I’m always distracted when people walk by.

3. I expected my words to not be polished and the sentences perfect… because the purpose of FastDraft is to just get those words out and to not think… I’m surprised my OCD didn’t kick in too badly.

4. I was able to plot on my feet.  And though I hit a few snags, I was able to keep the momentum going.

5.  Next time, I’m going to push myself for 10 pages a day.

6. I’m going to continue.  I know I can do it, write 5 pages a day.  But if I have a bad day and the words just aren’t coming, I won’t force it either.

Thanks goes to Bria who organized it all.

Thursday Thirteen: 13 fun cat pics

These are fun little pics I found in my pictures folder on my computer…

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