First. Let me wish everyone a Merry Christmas today. I hope you are spending the day just the way you would like to spend it, whether it is with family and friends or alone and reflective of the mystery of the season. Because I really love history, mystery and mythology, I thought I would trace a few traditions of Christmas celebration through History. Much of my information comes from the following article.
http://www.schooloftheseasons.com/celsolstice.html Our images of Christmas, if we live in the colder parts of the northern hemisphere, are like our own: snow, cozy fireplaces, chilly carolers, sleigh rides, big warm dinners, children and pets running amok with treats and gifts. Even our Christmas carols speak of the cold of winter. It's not accurate. We've celebrated the birth of Christ around the winter solstice since about 400 AD. Prior to that, it was not really celebrated at all. The New Testament of the Bible states that Mary And Joseph went to Bethlehem for the census in the month of Caesar, but that month is July or August. The weather in Israel and Palestine would have averaged in the 70 degree range, like a Florida, Hawaii or southern hemisphere Christmas, so forget the snow and cold or bitter images we hear in carols and prayers. It was also the dry season, so travel to Bethlehem, though arduous for a pregnant woman wouldn't have been as terrible as it might have been. In Pre-Christian times, the winter solstice on December 21 was celebrated. Many of the customs associated with it and other midwinter festivals derive from stories of a mighty battle between the darkness and the light. The light wins. Other traditions record this as the time a savior (the Sun-Child) is born to a virgin mother. Many practices and traditions carry into modern times, with a "re-branding"
The Battle Between Old and New, Dark and Light The Romans celebrated from December 17th to December 24th with a festival called Saturnalia. During that time, all work was put aside in favor of feasting and gambling. The social order was reversed, with masters waiting on their slaves. Saturnalia was named after Saturn, who was often depicted with a sickle like the figures of Death or Old Father Time.
The day following the Saturnalia, was the Juvenalia, a holiday in honor of children who were entertained, feasted and given good luck talismans.
After vanquishing the Old King, it’s time to celebrate the "new" in the form of children, the New Year's Baby, the Son of Man. Naturally this is the time of the year at which the birth of Christ is celebrated, since he is also the New King, the Light of the World who brings light.
The Birth of the Sun December 25th was best known as the birthday of the Persian hero and sun-god, Mithra. The myth tells that he sprang up full-grown from a rock, armed with a knife and carrying a torch. Shepherds watched his miraculous appearance and hurried to greet him with the first fruits of their flocks and their harvests. The cult of Mithra spread all over the Roman empire.
In 274 AD, the Roman emperor Valerian declared December 25th the Birthday of Sol Invictus, the Unconquerable Sun.
Christ was also not the first miraculous child born to a virgin mother. The virgin birth of heroes and sages was a widespread formula in the Hellenistic world: Pythagorus, Plato, Alexander were all believed to be born of woman by the power of a holy spirit.
The union of a virgin and a supernatural force, like the couplings between Zeus and various nymphs, was shorthand indicating the presence of a miraculous child, a child with the powers of both worlds. Dionysus is such a child, born of a union between Zeus and Semele.
The Athenians had a women-only midwinter festival called the Lenaia, which honored Dionysus. On this night, Greek women held their ecstatic dances in winter — fully clothed in Greek dress, with castanets or the thyrsus, dancing together with no male companions. The Festival of Wild Women became The Festival of Merry Women on Dec 14.
Until the fourth century, Christ’s birthday was celebrated on January 6th, on the same date when the Virgin Kore gave birth to the year god celebrated in Alexandria with a festival called the Koreion.
An Egyptian ceremony also re-enacted the birth of Horus, the sun-god to Isis. All lights in the city were doused while Isis circled the sarcophagus of Osiris seven times, then brought forth Horus who was called “the Light of the World.” Statues of Isis holding the newly born sun god on her lap, presenting him to the world, are similar to pose to later statues representing Mary and Jesus. When an old King died in Ancient Egypt his heir took power immediately, but was not officially elevated until the birth of the sun god the coming year.
Festival of Lights The return of the light is the most prominent feature of most midwinter festivals. In Sweden on St. Lucy’s Day, young girls don white dresses and a wreath of candles and awaken their families with cakes and song.
Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, is celebrated by lighting candles over a span of eight days.
The Christian custom of the Advent wreath, with its four candles, one lit each of the Sundays before Christmas, is another way of re-kindling the light.
The Christmas candle, a large candle of red or some other bright color decorated with holly or other evergreens, was at one time a popular custom throughout Great Britain, Ireland and Scandinavia. One person, usually the eldest or the head of the household, is designated as the lightbringer. She lights the candle for the first time on Christmas Eve before the festive supper and during each of the remaining evenings of the Twelve Days of Christmas. To extinguish the candle, she snuffs it with tongs rather than blowing it out, since that would blow the luck away. The candle sheds a blessing on the household and so is protected from accidental quenching.
It seems likely that the candle also represented the coming year, just as the weather of each of the twelve days of Christmas foretell the weather of the corresponding month. It had protective or fertilizing powers and was kept as a charm. In Denmark, during a lightning storm, the remnant would be brought out and lit to protect the household.
Similar customs once surrounded the Yule log. The Yule log must never be bought but should be received as a gift, found or taken from you own property. Often the log to be burned at midwinter was chosen early in the year and set aside.
Tradition varies about the type of wood to be used. Oak logs were popular in the north of England, birch in Scotland and ash in Cornwall and Devon. Ash is the only wood that burns freely when green and the world-tree, Yggdrasil, in the Nordic tradition was an ash-tree. It is important that the Yule log be the biggest and greenest log available since the Christmas festivities will last only as long as the Yule log burns.
In some parts of the Scottish highlands, the head of the household finds a withered stump and carves it into the likeness of an old woman, the Cailleach Nollaich or Christmas Old Wife, a sinister being representing the evils of winter and death. She's the goddess of winter, the hag of night, the old one who brings death. Burning her drives away the winter and protects the occupants of the household from death.
In Italy, the Yule log is called the Ceppo. Boccaccio in the fourteenth century described a Florentine family gathering about the hearth and pouring a libation of wine upon the glowing wood, then sharing the remaining wine, thus linking the Yule log with the custom of wassailing, pouring out libations to the trees in the orchard. Another ancient midwinter custom is decorating with greens. The Romans decorated with rosemary, bay, laurel, holly, ivy and mistletoe.
Celebrating Yule You should enjoy yourself as much as possible on the Winter Solstice because this will bring back light (and lightness) into the world. Different traditions mention feasting, gambling, playing pranks, giving gifts, visiting, drinking, dressing up, fornicating, putting on plays and staying up all night. During the dark of winter, invoke all the forces of pleasure and love which make life worth living.
Decorating for this festival is easy since you can use all your Christmas decorations. Evergreens and wreaths represent rebirth and the circle of life. Fill your home with candles and Christmas lights. Place them on mirrors, hang up lots of sparkly ornaments and prisms and tinsel so you can create as much light as possible.
Sitting in the Dark
Earlier traditions focused on the battle between the dark and the light, but we know both are valuable. Honor the dark before calling in the light. This is the season when animals hibernate and nature sleeps and we can turn inward too. Perhaps some of the depression people feel during the holidays comes from not providing a space for feeling the sadness associated with this season. Set aside time (hard to do amidst the frenzy of the holidays) for sitting in the dark and quiet. I like to spend the entire day of the Winter Solstice in silence and reflection.
This is a natural time for letting go and saying farewell. Release your resentments and regrets into the darkness, knowing they will be transformed. Write about them in your journal or write them on slips of paper which you can burn in your Yule fire. Use your holiday cards to make amends to people you've hurt or neglected.
Welcoming the Light When you light your candles and your fire, do so with the intention of bringing light into the world. What are the ways in which you can help make the world lighter? How do you bring light into the lives of those around you? Make a conscious effort to increase the amount of light you create. In my own home I always burn candles in the morning when I meditate and pray. The wishes and hopes of darkness vanishing with the old year and light appearing with the new have always been close to my heart. Have a Great Holiday
A Gifted and Talented Interview - Mara Reitsma
Who are you as a person?
My name is Mara, and I do a lot of things, living on the wet and wild West Coast of B.C, Canada.
I am a wizard of words, an architect of artwork and a supervisor of sneaky minions; both professionally and as a mother of three.
Trust me, if Godzilla is terrorizing Tokyo on the t.v, or the children are mining away at their craft, I have to find something to occupy myself. We get bored pretty fast, and I’ve found myself creating not just stories, but a whole network of crazy to get lost in.
I blame my parents… “That’s not an earthquake, that’s a runaway train cruising down the main drag!” Or, “Tonight, we feast on Giraffe Kneecaps and Crocodile Toes!” Would you believe that my father would try and convince us that the cow fields we passed, were filled with Dinosaurs in Cow hats, just waiting for unsuspecting children to be fooled by their disguises? And people wonder where my imagination comes from……
2. How long have you been a writer?
For as long as I can remember. I have notebooks filled with notes and short stories, from back in high school. Every once in a while, I’ll come across one, or my family will, and the memories just start spinning.
Funny thing is, that everything I’ve written so far, has had something to do with the works I’ve published lately. I’ve always written with a twist of fantasy, and it’s like my brain has always known my Devil’s Daughters series would be my thing, and every story has found a place in their universe; and not only that, I found a co-Author, Mark McQuillen, whose crazy fits right in with my own, and together, we’ve published ten stories, all taking place in the same universe.
3. Are you Traditionally or Indie published?
If not yet, what are you considering? #IndieAllTheWay
I’m not going to lie, I’m a control freak. I have to do the work, to know it got done the way we wanted it done. We write, edit and format, create our own covers and publish on our own. We have different platforms from which we launch from, but we are Indie Authors through and through. Mark’s so laid back, but I have to admit, the thought of someone else fiddling with the story, gives me the heebie-geebies!
None the less, with platforms like Lulu Publishing and Smashwords, we’ve managed to launch our award winning series into the laps of readers everywhere. #IndieSuccess #IndieAuthorsRock
4. What writers inspired you? Favorite Authors?
Both of these Authors have written about Vampires, but on totally different levels.
Anne Rice is known and loved by many, but it was she who said to write what you love, and love what you write. Nothing else mattered, so long as you loved your story. With that in mind, I thought about writing, for real.
J.R Ward also writes about Vampires, but has managed to take them out of the stereo typical roles of the past, and given them a new twist. I still love Lestat, and there is much of him in the Black Dagger Brotherhood, but it was so different. I had always had a hard time with characters, trying to keep in tune with other stories. Vampires had always lived for blood, and could be killed by sunlight or a stake to the heart. Well, the Warden broke those perceptions placed on
the Vampire race, and I knew then, that what was already written, was not fact, but a mere guideline to follow. That, and the fact I had to wait a whole year for her next release, drove me to writing my own fantasy series filled with races of all kinds; specially tuned, the way I wanted them.
5. What is your book/series about?
Imagine you’re a three hundred year old female, and you just found out that everything you thought you knew, was a lie. There is an ancient enemy on your doorstep, the Verse is falling apart, and you, and a handful of others, are all that stand between life and never ending darkness.
6. What is the setting and genre?
The Devil’s Daughters, and the Crossover (Also known as the Legends Series) are set in a trio of universes. Each Verse has it’s own dilemma to overcome, but they all lead back to the same enemy. Each planet is different, each race unique, and the time line just keeps going. We have stories in this series, that span millions of years; dubbing it the series that never ends.
7. Who is your favorite character from your book and why?
In my book, it would have to be Euphamia. Fearless and loyal, she hates the rules, and yet will honor them to the best of her abilities; but don’t piss her off, for she is controlled by her emotions and will, break those rules to quench her rage. Moto- If you don’t want sarcasm, don’t do stupid! In our series, it’s Jack. No word of a lie, that grumpy old Einherjar is full of sarcasm and wit, even more so than Euphamia. Everything comes with a dash of humor, but just like Euphamia, he is loyal to the core. He too has a motto- Don’t piss off the females.
8. What character is most like you?
Zahara. She tries hard to keep everyone happy, and in her family, that’s a never ending task. She’s like, middle ground; and the only one to not get her face ripped off during one of Euphamia’s emotional outbursts. Unlike her sisters, who stand at opposite ends of the spectrum, Zahara knows and respects the rules, like Madrina, but she also sees that there is an exception to every rule, like Euphamia, and can navigate the thin line that runs between right and wrong.
9. If you had a supernatural power, what would it be?
To heal. In our books, and in reality, many of life’s battles come with casualties, and not all posses the power to heal. Those that do, work constantly to repair the damages of war, but not every case is a victory. We need more healers.
10. Would you say your book has a message or underlying theme? What is it?
There are, but just as the characters have to learn what they are, so do the readers. Some say, they are left confused with our stories at times, well, that’s because the characters are confused. We’ll drop hints here and there, but you as the reader, are not going to know any
more than the characters do. We want you to learn the answers to the questions, as they do; same goes with all the underlying messages in the series!
11. How are you marketing your book?
I publish through Lulu, and from there, I can drop my works on Amazon, Kobo, Nook, Ibookstore, Ingrams and more. From there, our fan pages such as Pages of Insanity, Mark McQuillen’s Madhouse and my Author Page, Mara Reitsma and website blog through Wix.com, we share, share, share. #SharingIsCaring. We also take part in takeover events, host our own, and interact with our fans on a daily basis. We even have a V.I.P club, specifically for our top fans, where they can come and write with us and hang around. Access is private, but if you do happen to find yourself stalking us in the near future, you may just find your way in. Our major marketing platforms are YouInstaTwitPinFaceReads (Youtube, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, GoodReads) and NaNoWriMo! You meet some amazing people when you venture out.
12. A wonderful thing has happened! Hollywood wants to make a movie of your book! You get to pick the actors & actresses. You want________________for your lead characters.
Euphamia: Lena Heady Malice: Charlize Theron Nyx: Roman Reigns Kember: Gal Gadot
13. What music do you hear (what songs) remind you of your story?
Euphamia: Wretched and Divine, Black Veiled Brides Malice: Feel Invincible, Skillet Nyx: I Will Not Bow, Breaking Benjamins Eroch: It Has Begun, Starset There are so many characters, and each has their own playlist, but for the series itself, we have In The End, Black Veiled Brides & On My Own, Ashes Remain
14. What Favorite foods
15. What makes you laugh/cry?
I love a good comedy, and have been known to shed a few tears during those heart wrenching moments between lovers in a book.
16. What do you want written on your head stone and why?
Write. Love. Create. You can’t enjoy life without doing at least one of those three things, and I do them all! A life lived to the fullest, is a life worth living.
17. Other than writing do you have any hobbies?
I doodle, at least, that’s what I call it. I dabble in the world of digital design, creating covers and
promos for other Indie Authors. I just love to doodle, but I’ve been known to help out where I can. It gets me out there.
18. What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
Right now, we’re waiting for The Orville to return, and watching Vikings. We’re all up to date with Game of Thrones and Archer, and skimming through Stargate and an old Australian flick, Ocean Girl.
19. If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
I’ve always wanted to create, and I’m doing that now, but if I had the chance, I’d have a whole studio, where I could bounce from one place to another, tinkering with various projects throughout the day. Not an office, tucked away in some corner, but a whole floor, all to myself; and those who’ve fallen into my craziness. I’m pretty close to doing what I’ve always wanted, and I don’t think I’d change it. I’d still be creating somewhere, writing or not. It’s like second nature to me.
20. What are you working on right now?
Ummmm…. this is where it gets tricky. You see… I have: Zahara Mark has: Valkyrie: Darkness Awaits Madrina Valkyrie: Darkness Awaits Euphamia Coming soon- Valkyrie: Song of Darkness And together, we have… Legends Chronicles Judgments Distorted Pasts So, You could call them books five, six and seven, or, eleven twelve and thirteen. As I mentioned above, we do a lot of writing in our V.I.P group, which is the next three have been written, and are currently in editing. So, coming soon… Illusions of The Present, What Futures Hold, and The Child. We told you, it never ends!
21. How much research do you do for your novels? We’re always researching. Every image we find, all the songs that inspire us, not to mention the live writes with other Authors, that always seem to lead back to our world, it’s all homework for us, and Mark and I don’t stop; just ask our other halfs!
Bonus –what’s the weirdest thing you have Googled? If someone was to look up my browser history, I’d have a lot of questions to answer for. We have a war on our hands, and there are just some cases, where our characters have to not only defeat their enemies, but they like to add a little flare while their at it. So, the weirdest thing I have googled (You’ll have to ask Mark about his own history…) would have to be recipes. Not just any recipes, but the nastiest of the nasty. I mean, the Insid in our books, are as grotesque as it gets, and some of the recipes I found, made even me want to vomit; so naturally, I added them in. Steamed blood worms with whipped beetle dressing was about as nasty as it got.
22. What’s the scariest thing you have ever done, and did it end up in a story?
Everything, ends up in our stories in one way or another, but what’s scary, is when you write a scene, and then it actually happens. It’s very rare, but when it happens… All in all though, the scariest thing ever, was when my son took off in the shopping mall, he was in the toy store across from the food court where we were eating, and his brother had, forgot him in the bathroom. The fear I felt, the worry... He was three, not three hundred and lost in a different universe, but those emotions followed through to the story in many ways.
23. Name 5 fictional characters you would invite to a dinner party. Where would the party be? Euphamia, Malice, Nyx, Vishous and Zhex (Black Dagger Brotherhood) It would have to be at a club, and very low key to the public; until you got underground and the music hit you and the smell of fun lingered in the air.
24. What links or website do you have? List them below.
As many of you know, I'm nearing the finish of my fourth book in the Children of Stone Series. It's title will be Heart of the Lotus. (Beware, a few spoilers are next) In this book there are two story lines and arcs that intermingle and eventually join. One story continues the adventures of Prince Wserkaf and his wife Khentie as they begin to re-define their relationship. The other is the continuing story of Marai and his followers as they travel in Ta-Seti and try to avert a war. It's also the story of Djerah learning his magic. Ariennu has pursued him. Although she is devoted to Marai, she's still Red Ari and likes to chase other men from time to time. In this scene (My Christmas Treat to You) Djerah learns to make his boat fly. Ari thinks he means something else until she realizes exactly how she can help.
“It’s the Children. I guess no one ever told you they love pleasure and it makes them stronger. See? Breathe it out.” she whispered gently, at his cheek letting him know that his thoughts were no secret. “Make the power build. Make the light grow. Make the boat feel as light as you do. Rise up.
Light, light, swift. She goes; light to you…” Ariennu’s naughty laugh whispered through her lips.
Light, light, swift
The voices burst like a myriad of singing whispers in their hearts. “There. Hear that? Say it with them again Light, light, swift and more quickly.”
Light, light, swift
The oars snapped to attention and ripped themselves from Djerah’s hands so fast they made them burn. They mimicked the movement of rowing he had made and began to work the boat forward
Light, light, swift, light, light, swift
Djerah’s hands filled with a golden glow and moved the oars barely touching them. The voices wove over each other singing in jubilant harmony like a chorus of:
“The melek! Messengers of Yahweh!” Djerah cried out. “Savta Oora’s melek voices. Singing. I hear them in my head,” he gasped and his mouth stayed open in ecstasy. “Yes! Light, light, swift!” he felt as if he was rising up from the seat.
Wind pushed hard against his closed eyes. He wanted to open them, but couldn’t.
“Goddess! You’re turning to solid gold and glowing. Djerah…”
He heard Ariennu’s voice as if it was a league away.
Daring to crack one eye open he saw his own golden, glowing shoulder. It was only the beginning. Trying to keep relaxed he tried to sneakily slide and eye open to witness what was happening.
It is well
Witness the joy
The voices lulled and he opened his eyes to see a mysterious light arc from his own body and run along the outside edge of the pole. It moved through the wdjat and out to the lashed edges, making them look like edges of a sword blade fashioned of lightning that was slowly changing into something like insect legs.
With each automatic stroke of the oar, the surrounding light became more brilliant, pushing the boat even faster.
Light, light, swift
The cadence shimmered in its insistent chorus. Djerah sat up in wonder and heard Ariennu’s cackle of laughter rising beside him as the dark tree and cliff shapes on the shore flitted by faster and faster. The golden glow of the edge of the boat surrounded them like a pink and orange field that, to Djerah resembled the way the inside of his eyelids looked when he faced the sun. He heard a slight, popping noise that sounded like a wax stopper being pried from a narrow-necked beer jar.
The wind which had nearly pressed him flat in the bottom of the boat suddenly stopped as a sunrise colored glow surrounded the boat. Djerah saw this but realized he was powering this and was so deep in a trance that Ari had been right. He was glowing and golden all over. He saw her become more than a silent but encouraging witness. Her own rainbow patterns bounced from the wdjat and shimmered over her arms like ecstasy transformed into light.
“Beautiful!” he cried then remembered to cry out “Light! Light! Swift!” The cross pole that balanced the boat to outside planking and the new sapling pole had become fused to the front of the boat and surrounded in gold. Something new was forming from the ordinary boat.
Extending from the pole on either side was a sheer membrane that resembled extended scarab wings. As soon as they were complete, they began to blur and hum like real insect wings.
A scarab? A gold and metal scarab? he thought. The wings adjusted and the pinkness surrounding it opened for a moment to show him where they were. Flying… Something startled him... the boat began to drift down toward the land over which it sailed. “Oh… No, no, no…” Djerah suffered. “Turn around, turn around and go home. Light, light, swift…”
The boat tipped and banked and Ariennu screamed before the pink encompassed the boat again. In moments, it sat in the water near Qustul Amani. Along the shore, crowds of people held lanterns and roared out cheers.
“I—I, did this? Really?” he fell to one side, exhilarated but exhausted. He felt the rush of excitement as his heart sped up and began to pound. Ariennu’s gentle, but skilled hands worked his heaving, sweat soaked shoulders, bring him to full rest. His eyes filled with sweat and happy tears made it almost impossible to see more than lights along the river. When he turned over and mopped his eyes enough to see, he caught Ariennu’s expression of pride.
“See. See. Your power…” She chirped proudly as if she had watched a child take its first steps. She laughed, threw her arms around his shoulders, tousled his hair and kissed his face; excited beyond words.
“I just wanted to go faster,” he panted, still winded from exertions which had been hidden and mental during the effort but had exhausted him as much as if he had personally sprouted wings and carried the boat on his shoulders. “I had no idea it would really fly.”
What's Up Next? Who's on first? Here are guests and subjects through February. If you want to add an article or be a later guest don't be shy. Message me.