• Anything but writing,  Frivolity,  History,  Risky Regencies

    Celebrating Halloween -You’re Invited!

    Halloween-Hero-1-HDo you love Halloween? Are you celebrating? I’m doing this extra blogpost today partly to remind you that I’m hosting a Virtual Halloween Party today on Facebook (4pm to midnight), and if any of you are on FB and enjoy the virtual parties to be found there, I hope you’ll come! It’s a fund-raiser for my friend Joyce, who needs to raise funds to stay on the kidney transplant waiting list, but it’s also a celebration of Halloween –what better time for a party? We have a number of nice gift giveaways planned, and we’ll be posting pictures and having conversations, playing games and doing mini-contests.

    Would you drink this at a "real" party
    Would you drink this at a “real” party

    The party is by-invitation-only, so if we aren’t already “friends” on Facebook, send a friend request to me (Gail Eastwood-author) –or message me– and I’ll friend and invite you! (Or let me know if you want to know how to give a donation, even if you can’t come to the party!)

    In my area of the U.S. the practice of trick-or-treating has really diminished in favor of FIREWORKSparties. Safer, I’m sure, but there was always a kind of thrill to roaming in the dark and going door-to-door. Halloween isn’t anything our Regency characters would have participated in. And in Great Britain, even now I would venture to say it is overshadowed by Guy Fawkes Day.

    Demonstrators with Guy Fawkes masks march to the Portuguese parliament in LisbonBonfires! Fireworks! Those are fun, but do they get to dress up in costumes? Do they have Guy Fawkes Day parties? Oh, wait. Yes, yes they do. But I still say I’d rather have candy than gunpowder.

    The roots of Halloween are very ancient, as most people know. The name comes from All Hallows Eve, the night before the Christian observance of All Saints Day (November 1, Hallowmass), established by Pope Gregory in the 8th century. But the Celtic celebration of Samhain (“summer’s end”) on October 31 is much older. Samhain was the night before the Celtic new year began, when it was believed the boundary between the living and the spirit worlds grew thin. The Celts may have believed the living could commune with the dead at such a time, see into the future, or even that spirits could return to earth. halloween-bonfire Bonfires, the wearing of costumes to confuse the walking spirits, and the telling of fortunes may have been part of the Celtic traditions.

    Some sources also throw in two Roman celebrations, the festivals of Feralia, honoring the passing of the dead, and of Pomona, a goddess of fruit and the harvest, also held at the time of the change in seasons. Mix in the medieval practice of “souling”, when the poor would go door-to-door on All Hallows asking for handouts in exchange for saying prayers for the dead, and you can see a lot of the ingredients for the evolution of Halloween.

    My fellow Riskies have already written some posts you might like to revisit this weekend. Elena did a lovely one about jack o’lanterns all the way back in 2008 (posted Oct 29). Amanda talked about the holiday origins in 2011 (Oct 25), and back in 2009 she did a Halloween post about the ghosts in the Tower of London. For more ghosts plus witches in the UK, revisit Elena’s post from last year (Oct 31, 2014).

    In case those aren’t enough to occupy you, here are a few more articles you may enjoy:

    “Slutty Halloween Costumes: a Cultural History”, which makes a case that Halloween has always been about sex: http://www.fastcodesign.com/1665320/slutty-halloween-costumes-a-cultural-history

    And in defense of those who follow the Wiccan religion, “What’s Witchcraft? Six Misconceptions about Wiccans”: http://www.livescience.com/39119-myths-about-witches-wiccans.html?li_source=LI&li_medium=more-from-livescience

    For the candy-lovers among us: http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2010/10/how-candy-and-halloween-became-best-friends/64895/

    And finally, I couldn’t resist including “Top Five Halloween Myths Debunked”: http://www.livescience.com/5148-top-5-halloween-myths-debunked.html

    Happy Halloween!

  • History

    Ghosts and Witches in the UK

    raynhamghostSince my blogging day has fallen on Halloween, I’ll do my best to get into the spirit of things. (Get that? “Spirit”? Feel free to groan!)

    I checked out the Internet and found many suggestions for “10 Most Haunted whatever”. Here are a few.

    Listverse’s Top 10 Most Haunted Places (anywhere) has the following in the United Kingdom: Borley Rectory, Raynham Hall in Norfolk, where this famous ghost lady picture was taken, the Tower of London and Edinborough Castle.

    Lists for the top 10 in the UK vary. Interestingly, Raynham Hall didn’t appear on either of the lists I checked. Haunted Rooms’ Top 10 Haunted Places in England lists the following places: Borley Rectory, Ancient Ram Inn, Pendle Hill, Berry Pomeroy Castle, Woodchester Mansion, Pluckley Village, Athelhampton House, Tower of London, Salmesbury Hall, Chillingham Castle. Visit Britain’s Top 10 Most Haunted Places lists Highgate Cemetery, Borley Rectory, Pendle Hill, Red Lion in Avebury, Ancient Ram Inn, Glamis Castle, Tower of London, Culloden Moor, Llancaiach Fawr Manor, Berry Pomeroy Castle.

    borleyghostBorley Rectory seems to always hit every list. I’d already read tales of the hauntings, supposedly due to a monk from a monastery that had existed on the site falling in love with a nun. According to the story, he was executed and she was bricked up alive within the convent walls. According to the Haunted Legend of Borley Rectory, this legend has no historical basis. However, there were strange incidents, reports of ghost carriages, an apparition that could have been a nun. However, there’s also some suspicion that a paranormal researcher, Harry Price, faked the phenomena he reported, and also that a subsequent resident, Marianne Foyster, may have faked paranormal activity to cover up her affair with a lodger.

    Here’s an image of a purported ghost sighting at Borley.

    Another of the places that seems to hit a lot of the lists is Pendle Hill, around which 12 women who in 1612 were tried and hanged as witches in what became known as the Lancashire Witch Trials. Check out this Youtube video to learn more. Given the superstitious nature of the time when these hangings occurred, some are now urging for these women to be pardoned.

    The legend of the Lancashire Witches forms some of the backstory for Lucy in Disguise by Lynn Kerstan, one of the Regencies in the ebook set Regency Masquerades. The set also includes the RITA-winning Gwen’s Ghost, co-authored by Lynn Kerstan and Alicia Rasley.

    Regency Masquerades will be on sale for 99 cents only for a few more days, so if you’re interested, buy it now at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks and Kobo.


    What ghost or witch stories or haunted places do you find the most interesting?

    Wishing you a happy Halloween!



  • Frivolity

    Are you ready for Halloween?

    Hopefully by my next post I’ll have Exciting Book News to share, but today I have a seasonal question for you:

    Are you ready for Halloween?

    A Jack o' Lantern made for the Holywell Manor Halloween celebrations in 2003. Photograph by Toby Ord on 31 Oct 2003.

    For practically the first time since Miss Fraser was born in 2004, I can answer that question with a yes, and before October 30, too. After some discussion, Miss Fraser has elected to go as the goddess Athena this year, so we found a generic Greek goddess costume, which we’re accessorizing with a helmet, a toy spear, and a stuffed owl. And just in case she backs out of being Athena at the last minute because she has to wear a dress, I ordered a mockingjay pin, which, along with her bow and arrow set and carefully chosen clothes from her everyday wardrobe, would make a credible Katniss Everdeen costume.

    Her first choice was actually Avatar Korra from The Legend of Korra, but I couldn’t figure out how to bring the costume together given my utter lack of crafting or sewing skills. I have to say, I’m proud of having raised a daughter who’s so fond of strong women in myth and literature that her heroines are Korra, Athena, and Katniss.

    I even have a costume of my own planned for the first time in over a decade! I’m part of a fantasy football league at work, and we’ve decided to all dress up as our teams. My team is the War Tigers, a riff on my favorite college football team, the Auburn Tigers, whose battle cry is, “War Eagle.” If you watch an Auburn game, you’ll see both an adorable mascot in a tiger suit and an actual eagle who swoops around the stadium before the game and then perches on his handler’s arm on the sidelines looking menacing during the game.

    War Eagle!

    So I’m going to wear my Auburn shirt and baseball cap, and carry a stuffed tiger perched on my wrist like that eagle. Granted, maybe two of my Seattle coworkers watch enough college football to get the reference, but still.

    One of these years I’m going to invest in a Regency dress–or maybe a redcoat officer’s uniform, so I can go in Napoleonic-era drag–and make that my costume.

    What about you? Are you dressing up for Halloween this year, or do you have a kid to costume? If you dressed as a Regency and/or literary figure, who would you choose and why?

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