The Witching Hours


Strange shadows dart stealthily across sparely lit streets, as dusk settles heavily on quiet neighborhoods of tree-lined sidewalks and cheerful well-kept homes. The eerie scream of a screech owl, more likely the brakes of a passing car, echoes deep into the night. Looming ominously from nearly every window is the menacing glare of smirking Jack-o-lanterns, while the often nervous refrain of “Trick or Treat” rings out in repetitious peals. Halloween is here, and with it the shivery remembrance of things that go bump in the night.

Halloween, a holiday once favored second to Christmas, is not as much fun as it used to be. The last few Halloweens have brought tampering scares, such as finding razors in apples and poisoned candy. A sick segment of society has forced many parents to hold neighborhood parties, instead of allowing their children to trick or treat. The tricks have been turned on the children, ruining an a once magical evening.

Gone are the days when children, dressed up hideously, or gaudily beautiful, could enter the home of a stranger, and be offered chilled apple cider with cinnamon stick straws, and homemade gingerbread, or cupcakes with orange icing and candy corn faces. No longer can mischievous children creep up on neighborhood porches to toss corn kernels against the front door, or generously soap window panes, without triggering house alarms and angering guard dogs kept behind locked fences. The mystical lure of Halloween is becoming a commercial enterprise for the sale of candy, costumes and decorations.

Halloween is a Christian name meaning All Hallows, or All Saint’s Day, but the custom of Halloween dates back to the Celtic cult in Northern Europe. As the Roman conquest pushed north, the Latin festival of the harvest god, Pomona, mingled with the Druid god, Samhain. Eventually, the Christians adopted the Celtic rites into their own observances.

Halloween signified the return of the herds from the pasture, renewal of laws and land tenures, and the practice of divination with the dead, presumed to visit their homes on this day. For both the Celts and the Anglo-Saxons, Halloween marked the eve of a new year. The Britain’s were convinced that divinations concerning health, death and luck, were most auspicious on Halloween. The devil, himself, was evoked for such purposes.

The Druid year began on November first, and on the eve of that day, the lord of death gathered the souls of the dead who had been condemned to enter the body of animals to decide what form they should take for the upcoming year; the souls of the good entered the body of another human at death. The Druids considered cats to be sacred, believing these animals had once been human, changed into cats as punishment for evil deeds.

The Druid cults were outlawed by the Romans during their reign in Great Britain, but the Celtic rites have survived, in part, to the present day. By the time these ancient rites migrated to America, the mystic significance was lost, and all that has remained is an evening when children can dress in outrageous costumes, and collect candy from obliging neighbors; yet a tiny part of every child still believes in witches, ghosts, and the nameless entities that creep about on Halloween, relatives, to their young minds, of the monster that lives under every child’s bed.

In the ancient days, it was believed that Halloween was the night chosen by witches and ghosts to freely roam, causing mischief and harm. Witchcraft existed before biblical times, believed in by ancient Egyptians, Romans and American Indians. The Christian Church held varying opinions on witchcraft, at one time accrediting it to be an illusion, later accepting it as a form of alliance with the devil. As late as 1768, disbelief in witchcraft was regarded as proof of atheism.

Halloween customs varied from country to country, but all were related to the Celtic rites. Immigrants to this country, particularly the Scotch and Irish, introduced some of the customs remaining today, but there were many more that are unfamiliar. On Halloween in Scotland, women sowed hemp seed into plowed land at midnight, repeating the formula: “Hemp seed I sow, who will my husband be, let him come and mow.” Looking over her left shoulder, a woman might see her future mate.

Apples and a six-pence were put into a tub of water, and whoever succeeded in extracting either of them with his mouth, but without using his teeth, was guaranteed a lucky year. In the highlands of Scotland in the 18th century, families would march about their fields on Halloween, walking from right to left, with lighted torches, believing this would assure good crops. In other parts of Scotland, witches were accused of stealing milk and harming cattle. Boys took peat torches and carried them across the fields, from left to right(widdershins), in an effort to scare the witches away.

The Scots strongly believed in fairies. If a man took a three-legged stool to an intersection of three roads, and sat on it at midnight, he might hear the names of the people destined to die in the coming year. However, if he tossed a garment to the fairies, they would happily revoke the death sentence.

Scotland’s witches held a party on Halloween. Seemingly ordinary women, who had sold their souls to the devil, put sticks, supposedly smeared with the fat of murdered babies, into their beds. These sticks were said to change into the likenesses of the women, and fly up the chimney on broomsticks, attended by black cats, the witches’ familiars.

In Ireland, a meal of callcannon, consisting of mashed potatoes, onions and parsnips, was solemnly served on Halloween. Stirred into this concoction, was a ring, a thimble, a coin, and a doll. The finder of the ring would marry soon, the finder of the doll would have many children, the thimble finder would never marry, and the one fortunate enough to find the coin would be rich. Jack-o-lanterns originated from Ireland, where according to newspaper editor and writer, George William Douglas, ” a stingy man named Jack was barred from Heaven because of his penuriousness, and forbidden to enter Hell because of his practical jokes on the devil, thus condemned to walk the earth with his lantern until Judgement Day.”

A more serious custom was the holding of the General Assembly(Freig) at Tara, in Celtic Ireland, celebrated every three years and lasting two weeks. Human sacrifices to the gods opened the ceremonies, the victims going up in flames.

England borrowed many of the Scotch and Irish customs, adding them to their own. Young people bobbed for apples, and tied a lighted candle to one end of a stick, and an apple to the other. The stick was suspended and set spinning, the object of the game being to bite the apple without getting burned by the candle. This custom was a relic of the fires lighted on the eve of Samhain in the ancient days of the Celts.

The only customs bearing no relation to the ancient rites is the masquerade costumes of today, and Halloween parades. But the custom of masked children asking for treats comes from the seventeenth century, when Irish peasants begged for money to buy luxuries for the feast of St. Columba, a sixth century priest, who founded a monastery off the coast of Scotland.

From the north of England comes the activity known as “mischief night”, marked by shenanigans with no particular purpose, or background. Boys and young men overturned sheds, broke windows, and damaged property. Mischief night prevails today, but is mostly limited to throwing eggs, smashing pumpkins, and lathering cars with shaving cream. The custom of trick or treat is observed mainly by small children, going from house to house. The treat is almost always given, and the trick rarely played, except by teenagers, who view Halloween as an excuse to deviate from acceptable behavior.

Children today, knowing little or nothing of the history and myths behind Halloween, still get exited over the prospect of acting out their fantasies of becoming a witch, ghost, devil, or pirate. It is still pleasurable for an adult, remembering Halloweens past, to see the glow on a child’s face as he removes his mask and assures you that he’s not really a skeleton. Watching the wide-eyed stares of young children warily observing flickering candle-lit pumpkins, is an assurance that even today, thousands of years beyond the witch and ghost-ridden days of the Druids, a little of the magic of Halloween remains. Children need a little magic to become creative adults; adults need a little magic to keep the child in them alive. So if, on this Halloween, you notice a black cat slink past your door, trailing behind a horde of make-believe goblins, it probably belongs to a neighbor. And the dark shadow whisking across the face of a nearly full moon is only the wisp of a cloud, not a witch riding a broom… probably.

By the pricking of my thumbs,

Something wicked this way comes.

Open, locks,

Whoever knocks!




“My Shadow”

The shadow hounded me Halloween day 
Glimpsed in farthest corners of my eyes 
Each time I turned, it slipped away 
Wherever Shadows run to hide 

It took not shape, nor any form, 
At least from what I briefly spied 
It seemed a darkly presence at my back 
I hurried home and ran inside 
Would its blackness fade with sunlight’s lack? 

No, it hovers just beyond my view 
In darkness shows its wicked might 
Taught me terrors I never knew 
I reached quickly for some light 

Each click, each lamp, 
brought no flare, no brightness 
To overcome  the dark 
Which made the Shadow aware 
That I could feel its evil mark 

Do I deserve this dreaded fate? 
My sins crossed o’er my mind and soul 
Must I now pay the devil’s toll? 
Or be redeemed too late? 
Only my Shadow knows

Views of the Neighborhood – Bird Sanctuaries

Great photos of the power of nature.

Fiction Favorites

I originally made a pledge not to show the personal devastation here in Port Aransas. I am keeping that pledge but feel compelled to show some of the effects of Hurricane Harvey on our three bird sanctuaries. This is a side of a disaster one normally does not see. Also, this is a side of a disaster which by necessity becomes a secondary priority to recovery.  The city has been making repeated pleas to the state and the federal government to release disaster funds to restore basic services. So far, other larger cities have been granted aid while Port Aransas continues to struggle. You can draw a comparison to the city wide damage from these views of the birding centers.

Road to the Alligator

Here is a photo that I took in the summer of the entrance to the Birding center

Here is what is left of the boardwalk

Here is a closer shot of the observation…

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Smorgasbord Media Training For Authors – Advertising – Gather around the right Waterholes. Excellent promo tips for writers about to publish.

Smorgasbord - Variety is the spice of life

I am continuing the series on media training and marketing for authors which is adapted from my media training course for small businesses and charities. Authors are small businesses with a product that needs marketing to obtain sales. Once you start thinking of yourself as a business it tends to focus your mind differently.

Gathering at the right waterholes.

Have you ever been to one of those parties where it appears that everyone is speaking a foreign language or where everyone is talking about something that is completely unknown to you? I have. When my husband was offered his job in Spain, he went ahead for the first three or so years, and I would go over every six weeks for five days. His company directors generously took us out to the Madrid hotspots in the first few visits, and in those days I didn’t understand a word of Spanish…

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10 Ways to Tease Your Next Release via #h2e Penny Sansevieri 

Great guide for self-publishing and techno dummies like me

How To Ebook

So your next release is almost ready? Great!

Have you started marketing it yet? If not, it’s time to get going on it. As I said last week, when it comes to book marketing, “go big or go home” rings particularly true for indie authors.

Go big or go home with these 10 teases for your next release via @bookgal #gobigorgohome…
Click To Tweet

Getting Started

So where do you start? The first thing you’ll want to do is ensure that it’s available as an Amazon pre-order. Why? It gives you a direct link you can start using in your marketing. Share it in everything you do. Because not only can you use it to share with people as you tell them about your book, but it also drives pre-orders, which equates to more…

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Views of the Neighborhood – Community Spirit

Pictures worth a thousand words

Fiction Favorites

Continuing with my thoughts on maintaining a positive focus regarding Hurricane Harvey, I am featuring three separate groups who have set up relief points in town. All the goods in these relief locations are donations from kind folks outside of Port Aransas. These contributions have made a difference in helping folks through a very tough time.

Community spirit

Our first stop is the Recovery Supply Depot at Robert’s Point Park

Here residents can find almost anything in cleaning supplies, hardware, and food. Bear in mind the local grocery store just opened this week with a very limited supply.

This shot will give you an idea of the magnitude of the donations. There are even wheelchairs available.

I loved this shot since it shows bikes, shovels and rakes.

When I took this picture a guy off camera asked,”Do you have any tarps?” The answer was, “Sure do. What size?”

Port Aransas spirit

The next relief point is Cowboy Camp…

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A Bully Blueprint

Solutions for kids

By Cherrye S. Vasquez, PH. D.

In addition to the many widely-acclaimed children’s books on bullying and Multi-Culture Diversity, author Cherrye S. Vasquez has written a new book with hope of reaching children and teaching them, on their own turf, how to handle these issues which have been blown out of proportion in the past decades. In her own words author Vasquez has ” written A Bully Blueprint: Solutions for Kids, using health giving titles to provide parents and educators with familiar, health-centered but relatable terminology in an attempt to assist with therapeutic ideas for dismantling an appropriate bullying behaviors.” In short, a handbook for all involved in this pandemic of bullying undermining our society — including the bully.

This book leaves no stone unturned and is set up as a manual, addressing every possible aspect of bullying, the reasons for and a myriad of working solutions. Beginning with the basic definition of bullying, the author creates a list from the typical name-calling and fighting to the more horrific form of cyber bullying which has caused suicides among its victims.

She writes to parents and caretakers, because they are the only ones that can get the ball rolling to protect their children, going up against all barriers stopping them. And she educates them regarding their rights concerning laws and policies in their children’s schools. She also addresses the bully, who may have problems at home causing acting out and lashing at victims. This section of the book strongly stresses in detail the importance of documenting each bullying event as it happens, to be presented to school officials; plus the benefits of not being aggressive or hostile to school leaders. The author has had an experience with the bullying of her own child in fourth grade and learned ‘hands-on’ the best and worst ways of dealing with the situation.

As an educator, author and mother, Cherrye Vasquez is well-qualified to address the theme of this book. Having earned a Dr. of Philosophy in Curriculum and Instruction; a Master of Education In Special Education; and A Bachelor of Arts Degree in Speech, Pathology/Audiology; she specializes In Multicultural Education, Early Childhood Handicapped, Mid-management and Educational Diagnostics.

According to author Dr. Vasquez,” approximately 48 states do have anti-bullying programs but not all implant them. When all else fails one may need to hire a lawyer, especially with sexual harassment. She also, as do I, disagrees with some schools’ ‘zero tolerance policy in which the victim is penalized for fighting back when attacked. I was bullied in fourth grade in the 50s and my only recourse was to fight back, which was successful and we became friends. Vasquez states firmly that it is imperative to know your children, both bully and victim. I have seen within my own family that a bullied child often grows up to become a bully, so the time to stamp out the problem is at a young age. Children who bully are more likely to join groups of bullies as teens. This book gives step-by-step recommendations and directions to prevent that.

There is a section on checking children’s physical and emotional behavior, which can trigger bullying through frustrations. The book covers both the subjects well and parental/teacher emotional interaction with both the bully and the victim. ‘A Bully Blueprint ‘is packed with information on all causes and aspects of bullying that is loaded with counter actions to steer children toward becoming loving, responsible, diverse adults. Author Vasquez believes this can be done with positive affirmation which leads to giving children a sense of positive self empowerment and interactions with their peers, teachers, parents and society.

This extraordinarily well-written book is a must for parents, educators, bullies and victims—a book to be read and referred to as needs arise. I have yet to read such clear comprehensive writing on the ongoing serious, worldwide problem of bullying and diversity. I highly recommend this book for libraries, school personnel and parents, and suggest those learning from this extensive book to also check out Dr. Cherrye Vasquez’s selection of children’s books on this subject, such as, ‘The Bully Band, Parents in Rhythm.’

Micki Peluso; author of . . . And the Whippoorwill Sang