A History of Halloween as Samhain (All Hallows Eve) Approaches and the Week Ahead at Scattered Thoughts

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Happy Samhain!

 

October 31st is almost upon us. Known by many names, this time of year is celebrated by people all over the world and in far different ways than we might imagine.  A little history first.  Known first as Samhain (pronounced Sa win or sow en depending upon which Celtic dialect you use), it is an ancient Celtic festival celebrated from sunset on October 31 to sunset on November 1. This date  falls about halfway between the autumn equinox and the winter solstice. The festival marks the end of summer and fall (harvest season) and the beginning of winter, the darker, colder half of the year.

During Samhain, people bring their livestock down from the upper grazing pastures.  Now was the time of separating the animals, choosing which to keep as breeding stock and which to choose for slaughter for winter. Households take careful stock of their pantries and food supplies in order to prepare for the long, cold weather ahead. Unlike the Gaelic festival of Beltane, which celebrates life and growth, Samhain honors the darker side of things.  These months are considered a “liminal” time of the year, passing from the abundance of summer into the darkness and harsh times of the winter. It is also thought to be the time of the year when the walls between our world and the next plane of existence thin and the spirits can reach out to the living.Lag_BaOmer_bonfire

It is believed that the deceased spirits would return to the homes and places they knew, seeking comfort and sometimes revenge.  In order to appease these spirits, people would place a dinner plate at their table and/or bowls of food or treats by their front door. People took special care not to offend any wandering spirits, and if they left their homes they would disguise themselves with masks and costumes to avoid recognition. Eventually the tables were turned, and the masked citizens started imitating the spirits they once feared by going door-to-door demanding treats and threatening to perform mischief of their own.

Into this celebration came large bonfires,  lit to keep away bad spirits and even act as an imitation sun.  The bones from  freshly slaughtered animals were tossed into the fires known as “bone-fires”, which eventually became bonfires.  People carried part of the bone-fires with them by placing a hot coal inside a hollowed-out turnip, potato or beet.  Yes, that’s where our jack ‘o lanterns came from.   According to lore and historian Hannah Kincaid*:

The lanterns were frequently carved with creepy faces to represent and scare away the wandering spirits. The term “jack-o’-lantern” comes from an old Irish myth about a man nicknamed “Stingy Jack.” According to lore, the drunkard Stingy Jack tricked the devil into never condemning him to Hell. When Jack died, however, God wouldn’t allow such an unsavory soul into heaven, either, so Jack was sentenced to eternally wander the Earth with nothing but a coal nestled inside a hollowed-out-turnip for light. The Irish referred to Stingy Jack’s Jack-o'-Lantern_2003-10-31ghost as “Jack of the Lantern,” which eventually became “jack-o’-lantern” as we know it today.

So how did Samhain become Halloween?  Blame it on the Church…the Catholic church that is.  Here is the best explanation courtesy of Hannah Kincaid again:

The term “Halloween” is a result of Catholic interference with Samhain in the year 609. All Saints Day is a Roman Catholic holiday that honors and remembers all Christian saints both known and unknown. Pope Gregory IV decided to officially move the date of All Saints Day to November 1, the same day as Samhain. All Saints Day is also called “All Hallows” because “hallowed” means sanctified or holy (for those of you who know The Our Father prayer, think of the part “hallowed be thy name.”) The evening before All Hallows was a popular time to celebrate, so the term “All Hallows’ Eve” was used quite a bit. Eventually the term All Hallows’ Eve morphed into Halloween as we know it, and along the way it snatched up and mingled with many of the Samhain traditions that had already been happening for thousands of years.

The history of Samhain reminds us that we once celebrated holidays because of a shared human connection that resonated with the Earth’s cycles — the weather, the moon, the harvest — instead of a celebration of consumerism or heroic dominance.*

 

So how do you intend to spend this All Hallows Eve?  Masked, costumed, ready to explore into the night and see what spirits are afoot?  Or will you be staying home, listening for the sound of footsteps big and small, the sound of giggling and howls upon the night air?   Do you have your candy ready or will there be a trick or two in store for those who venture near?  Me and mine will light a candle or two, keep the wee doggies inside safe and warm, and have the goodies ready to share for those who visit.  Happy Samhain, everyone!raven and moon

Now for the Week Ahead at Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words:

Monday, October 27:

  • Belinda McBride’s Prince of Faith Book Tour and Contest
  • A MelanieM Review:  Accidental Contact and Other Mahu Investigations (Mahu #7.5)
    by Neil S. Plakcy

Tuesday, October 28:

  • D.T. Peterson’s Seduction in Red Book Tour and Contest
  • Alexis Duran’s To Catch a Threeve Book Tour and Contest
  • A PaulB Review: Phoenix Heart (Stolen Elements #1) by A.L. Wilson
  • A MelanieM Review: Cutting Out by Meredith Shayne

Wednesday, October 29:

  • Silvia Violet’s Shifting Hearts Book Tour and Contest
  • Lila Bruce’s The Scent of Jasmine Book Tour and Contest
  • A MelanieM Review:  Red Dirt Heart 3 by N. R. Walker

Thursday, October 30:

  • John Simpson and Robert Cummings’ The Marine Book Tour and Contest
  • Iyana Jenna’s Love’s Home Book Tour and Contest
  • A Barb, the Zany, Old Lady Review:  The Trouble with Elves by Theresa Woodson

Friday, October 31 (Happy Halloween):

  • Garrett Leigh’s Heart Book Tour and Contest
  • A MelanieM Review:  Confetti, Cake, and Confessions by KC Wells
  • October 2014 Summary of Reviews and Best Covers of the Month

Saturday, November 1:

  • An Aurora YA Review:  The Key to Behliseth by Lou Hoffmann

 

*references Hannah Kincaid,  History of Halloween (history.com), Telegraph uk

 

A Paul B Review: A Heart for Robbie by J.P. Barnaby

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Rating 4.5 out of 5 stars

A Heart for Robbie coverCelebrated gay author Julian Holmes writes young adult books where his heroes face demons, spirits and other things that go bump in the night. Those are nothing compared to the problems he faces when his newborn son Robbie is diagnosed with a serious heart defect. Julian must now navigate the health system for a possible cure for his son. When he meets Simon Phelps, the hospital insurance coordinator, Julian might find someone who will help complete his new family. But this new relationship could possible hurt as much as help Robbie in his fight for life.

During the delivery of his son by surrogate and best friend Erin, Julian Holmes is worried when his son does not immediately cry after his birth. The doctors rush the child to the NCIU and arrange for transport to St. Mary’s Children’s Hospital in downtown Chicago for more exams. Once there, the doctors diagnose Robbie with a serious heart defect that will only be corrected with a heart transplant. Without it, Julian would lose his son around his first birthday.

At St. Mary’s, Julian meets the hospital transplant team, which includes doctors, social workers, psychologist and Simon Phelps, the insurance coordinator. Whereas Julian is out and proud, Simon is deep in the closet. He is afraid of the reaction from his deeply religious mother and the youth center where he volunteers. He agrees to have dinner with his parents and potential dates that his mother has set up for him from her church.

After taking Robbie back to the hospital, Julian runs into Simon in the cafeteria. As they talk about what has happened in the last couple of months, Simon asks Julian what if it was scary to be out. Julian answer sometimes but Robbie’s health problems are actually scarier. After lunch, Simon receives and email from Julian what it is like to be deep in the closet.

Later, Julian takes Robbie in for a test. When Robbie codes, Julian is a wreck. Once Robbie is stabilized, Simon offers to take Julian to get something to eat and then drive him home. At the restaurant, Julian has a bit to drink to help drown his sorrows. Simon offers Julian a place to crash for the night. While there, their passion for each other takes over and they enjoy a night of love making. In the morning, they decide to try to pursue a relationship but keep it quiet as it would be against hospital regulations for Simon to be involved with a patient’s father.

As Simon grows closer to Julian and Robbie, he finds himself spending more and more time with them. A couple of months after the start of their relationship, Robbie is having trouble breathing and is rushed by ambulance to the hospital. The next day, as Simon is comforting Julian in a conference room, the head of the transplant team catches them, resulting in Simon’s dismissal and threatening to take Robbie off the transplant list. The two manage to convince the doctor to leave Robbie on the list while the state auditor conducts an investigation to see if anything illegal had occurred.

After that incident, a gay newspaper finds out about the relationship. The youth center asks Simon not to come back. As the information is about to get out to the mainstream press soon, Simon decides to tell his parents about himself. As expected, his mother does not take it well but his father is tired of losing his children due to her actions and tells Simon that he will work on his mother. Julian provides support for Simon during this time. Simon decides that he has his family, whether or not his parents are part of it or not.

Just shy of Robbie turning five months, Julian gets the call that a heart is available. As he informs his family, Julian is glad that Simon no longer has to hide his support for him. While the operation runs longer than expected, all appears to be fine. When some post operational complications show up, Julian wonders if it was all worth the effort. With a change in medicine, the doctors inform Julian that the prognosis is good for Robbie.

J.P. Barnaby has crafted a great novel with A Heart for Robbie. It starts with a prologue which is a passage from one of Julian’s books. This serves as an introduction to Liam and Clay, the heroes of the “Black Heart” series. These characters appear throughout A Heart for Robbie as manifestations of Julian’s hopes and fears. As Julian’s relationship with Simon grows, his need to consult with his characters lessens.

While I was a little disappointed that Julian and Simon’s first night together was brought about by a night out drinking, it was totally understandable. Julian needed to let go of his worries for a night and thus his night of drinking. The way the relationship was built was well done. I could feel Simon, who never thought about children of his own, fall in love with Robbie and his father. The fact that they had to keep the relationship quiet due to Simon’s work and being in the closet was understandable. The actions the two took during this time made sense.

The cover art by AngstyG might seem strange for a gay romance novel but was well done in the context of the story. The big teddy bear (Julian) holding the injured teddy bear (Robbie) just tugs at your heartstrings. The injured teddy bear in fact makes an appearance in the story.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press ebook  Paperback       All Romance ebooks (ARe)   Amazon    A Heart for Robbie

Book Details:

Ebook, 216 pages
Published July 10, 2014 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN: 978-1-63216-067-6
Edition language English

A PaulB Review: Elijah’s Ghost (A Wizard’s Touch #4) by Amber Kell

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Rating: 4  stars out of 5

“It only takes one event to change the world.”

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Elijah Trenton is an average student at wizard school. His true abilities are found out after an accident in one of his classes. He must learn how to live life with his new found skills and the attention of Devin Stewartson, his crush in one of his classes. He must also deal with family and enemies who want to use this power for their advantage while trying to keep himself and his friends safe.

Elijah’s Ghost is the fourth installment of Amber Kell’s “A Wizard’s Touch” series. While you can read the book as a stand-alone, there are parts of the plot which reference past events in the series.

The book starts out in the middle of a History of Spell Casting class, where Elijah Trenton is listening to his professor drone on and on. The only things that make the class bearable are the professor’s assistant who summarizes the class on cue card, his roommate Porter and his crush, Devin Stewartson, one of the “D” triplets introduced in earlier books. Elijah is surprised when the assistant yells at him to take cover, as it is the first thing she has ever said. After making sure Porter and Devin are safe, all hell breaks loose in the classroom, with the professor ending up dead.

Up until this point, everybody has considered Elijah an average wizard at best, including Elijah himself. He has failed to master the basic spells needed to pass his classes and hopes to just graduate and teach Magic Theory, considered the most basic of all classes. When the Headmaster of the school questions what has occurred, it is learned that Elijah is a necromancer. His world is then turned upside down.

Enrolled in new classes and a new tutor hired by his father, Elijah and the school learn not only can he interact with the dead, but is the most powerful necromancer to come along in ages. Because of his strength Elijah is unable to banish his avatar. Devin suggests that they talk to Jaynell, the powerful wizard who lives at the local wolf pack house for help.

Once at the pack house, Elijah discovers that it is haunted. Elijah then attempts to cast the spirit out. Back at the school, Elijah and Devin have a romantic encounter, but Elijah is troubled because Devin did not act the same as he had before they went to the pack house. Porter tells Elijah that Devin is possessed by the spirit Elijah tried to cast out and only killing the spirit will free Devin. Porter does this but the result is killing Devin. Elijah must now go to Hades and reclaim Devin’s soul for him to live again.

I enjoyed how Elijah slowly starts to accept his powers through the book. He has been beat down from family and fellow classmates as lucky to be at wizard school. When he discovers his powers, he feels like a screw up because he has not recognized his gifts to date. As he begins to learn of his powers, the negative feelings are still there even though everybody is telling him how special his powers are.

The courtship between Devin and Elijah was well done. Devin is tentative with Elijah because Elijah’s world has been turned upside down with his new skills and he wants Elijah to have time to adjust. Elijah is tentative because of his own low self esteem and knows Devin is bisexual. An encounter with a girl after one of Devin’s brothers clears up earlier misunderstandings and Elijah realizes Devin wants him.

I enjoy how Ms. Kell brings in new elements into her series, this time including ghost to go along with the wizards and weres. She includes characters from previous books in the series, but they play a supporting role. With Jaynell and Elijah now on board, Ms. Kell has set up future books for a potentially cataclysmic showdown with a future (or past as we are dealing with the paranormal) powerful enemy. I look forward to see where she takes these characters forward.

 

Cover Art by Posh Gosh. Well done cover depicting Elijah, Devin and Elijah’s avatar “puppy.”

Sales Links:   Totally Bound Books       Amazon   Elijah’s Ghost

Book Details:
115 Pages
Published September 19, 2014 by Totally Bound
Edition language English
Series A Wizard’s Touch #4

Books in this series include:

Jaynell’s Wolf (A Wizard’s Touch, #1)
Kevin’s Alpha (A Wizard’s Touch, #2)
Farren’s Wizard (A Wizard’s Touch, #3)
Elijah’s Ghost (A Wizard’s Touch, #4)

A Wizard’s Touch: Volume One (A Wizard’s Touch #1-2)