SHEEP IN LEGEND AND LORE - Happy Birthday to I SMELL SHEEP!

Not only is it the Chinese Year of the Sheep (Feb 19, 2015 to Feb 7, 2016), but it's the birthday of my favorite blog:

I SMELL SHEEP

This eclectic site reviews paranormal, science fiction, urban fantasy, horror, romance, young adult, aliens -- you name it, they're either reading it or watching it! You'll find reviews of movies, concerts, comics, manga, anime and much more, including interviews of authors, directors and actors.

I Smell Sheep is 5 years old today! And to celebrate this milestone, I'm reposting my blog from a few years ago abou

"SHEEP IN LEGEND AND LORE"

In Guangzhou, China, there is a statue commemorating the Five Sheep. It is said that the people used to eat only fish, until five gods came to earth riding on five sheep. Each sheep was a different color and held an ear of rice in its mouth.  The gods instructed the people to plant the rice and blessed the city against famine. The gods flew back to the sky but the sheep remained standing until they became stones. Guangzhou is nicknamed “Five Sheep City”, and all sheep are believed to be lucky.

In Greek mythology, Eros (Cupid) fell in love with the mortal Psyche but Psyche had to win over his mother, the goddess Aphrodite. Aphrodite was jealous of Psyche’s beauty and commanded her to perform a number of impossible tasks --- and one of them was to obtain a snippet of fleece from every member of a certain flock of sheep. Of course, this was not an ordinary flock. They were the wild Meloi Khyseoi, vicious golden-fleeced sheep with sharp horns and venomous bites!  Fortunately, the spirit of the river spoke to Psyche and told her that the sheep were only violent in the heat of the day. Following the river’s instructions, Psyche waited until the day grew cooler and the sheep drowsed in the shade. She then was able to obtain the fleece without being harmed.

On the island of Crete, the villages around Mount Psiloritis (now Mount Idi) were said to raise sheep with golden teeth. The people believed that there were such rich deposits of gold in the mountain that the grasses drew gold from the soil, and when the sheep ate the grass, the gold was deposited on their teeth. A monk first recorded the phenomenon in 1415. The real cause turned out to be a plant called nevrida, which the sheep eat in great quantity. Lambs are born with white teeth, and the teeth begin to turn yellow then deep gold as the animal ages. It takes quite a long time for the process, and when the teeth finally become golden, it’s time to butcher that particular sheep.
    
A Crow legend tells of a man possessed by evil spirits who tries to kill his stepson by pushing him over a cliff. The young man is saved by seven mighty bighorn sheep.  The leader of the sheep is Big Metal and he re-names the boy Big Iron. The seven sheep grant him gifts of power and wisdom, surefootedness and keen eyesight. Big Iron returns to his village with knowledge for the people, such as how to build a sweat lodge. He also carried the message that the Crow people would survive only so long as the river winding out of the mountains is known as the Bighorn River. Big Iron became a strong and wise man who lived a long life. He asked to be buried next to the Bighorn River so he could be close to the seven mighty sheep in the afterlife.

Hades was the Greek god of the underworld and also of wealth. Black sheep were sacred to him. He was worshipped but seldom petitioned (in the belief that he could not be swayed) but occasionally mortals would make prayers and bang on the ground to make sure that Hades heard them. They sacrificed black sheep (always at night) and allowed their blood to flow into pits dug into the ground in the belief that it would then reach Hades. Whoever offered the sacrifice however had to turn his face away in case he caught a glimpse of the underworld god. Every hundred years on April 30, a festival was held in honor of Hades, and black sheep and other black animals would be in high demand.

The story of the Golden Fleece was told since at least 800 BC, and probably earlier. The Greek king Athamas was said to have married Nephele, a cloud nymph, and together they had twins, a boy and a girl, Phrixus and Helle. But Athamas was unfaithful. He sired children with a mortal woman, Ino, and then divorced Nephele so he could marry Ino instead. Nephele was cast out of Athamas’ court, but he kept her children. Ino hated the stepchildren and plotted to kill them. Before she could do so, Nephele sent a flying ram with golden fleece that carried her children away. Sadly, Helles fell off and was drowned in the sea, but Phrixus made it to safety. He married the daughter of a king, and gave the king the sheared golden fleece of the ram as a gift. This is the same fleece that Jason and the Argonauts would later obtain. Incidentally, the constellation and zodiac sign Aries represents the golden flying ram that rescued Nephele’s children.

An Irish tale tells of King Fiachna, who was forced to make war upon King Lochlann. He took ten battalions into battle, and slew 300 of Lochlann’s men. But venomous sheep were released from Lochlann’s tent. These sheep slew 300 of Fiachna’s warriors each day. They caused immense slaughter and terror and no one could stand against them. Finally, Fiachna’s entire army was forced to climb the trees of the forest and remain in their branches, while the sheep raged on the ground below, bleating terribly and tearing up the ground. Embarrassed by his army’s plight, King Fiachna was determined to climb down and take on the sheep alone, but a stranger came along with a monstrous and magical dog. The creature killed every one of the savage sheep at its master’s command. The stranger then ordered Fiachna to take over the kingdom of Lochlann, which he did.

In modern times, the most famous sheep in the world was likely Shrek, a Merino in New Zealand that evaded shearing for six years by hiding in caves. He was finally captured in 2004 and his wool was sheared on national television. The wool weighed an amazing 60 pounds – most Merino fleeces are about 10 to 20 pounds at the most. Shrek became a celebrity, getting to meet the prime minister of New Zealand and promoting a children’s charity. Shrek celebrated his 10thbirthday with a fundraising stunt for the charity – he was shorn on top of an iceberg that was floating off the coast of New Zealand at the time, wearing special crampons on his feet so he could walk without slipping. Shrek lived to the ripe old age of 17, which is said to be 90 in human years.
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COUNTDOWN TO STORM WARNED - 25 PRIZES TO BE WON!

STORM WARNED is Book 3 of the Grim Series
Passionate musicians Caris and Liam grew up centuries apart. When their fates collide, they must learn to trust each other and work together to stop a dark force from seizing both Fae and human worlds... 

It's been SO hard to be patient!
Now I'm officially counting down until March 31st, the release day for my new paranormal fantasy, STORM WARNED.

To help my readers celebrate with me (and make it through the final days of waiting!) I've gathered together 25 fun goodies to give away. Event runs from 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, March 10th until 11:59 p.m. Monday, March 30th. Good luck!



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Find Your Next Great Read Scavenger Hunt

March 1st - March 25th

Find great authors and books during this giveaway event, hosted by Night Owl Reviews! Read book blurbs and get entered to win awesome prizes!


1- $500 Amazon Gift Card
23 - $25 Amazon Gift Cards
43 eBooks (A Kindle copy of my new release, STORM WARNED, is one of them!)

EASY TO ENTER --- For this scavenger hunt you will be reading book blurbs and filling in a missing word(s) from a sentence in the blurb.

Winner Announcement Chat: March 30th at 6pm PT / 9pm ET in the Night Owl Review chat room . Can't be there? Don't worry, all winners will be notified by email as well.


Use the Rafflecopter below to enter or go to this link:
http://www.nightowlreviews.com/v5/Blog/Articles/Find-Your-Next-Great-Read-Scavenger-Hunt-March-2015

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Superstitions About Love --- and a Giveaway

February is the month of love, and people have attempted to foretell their future partners for centuries. I remember skipping rhymes and folded paper games as a kid, and Saturday afternoon sessions with Ouija boards as a teen! But there are many other methods of divination. I’ve collected a number of myths, folklore, traditions and superstitions to share with you! 

Apples and love

The apple has been associated with love for centuries. In ancient Greece, tossing an apple to a woman was a proposal of marriage – and catching it was equivalent to saying yes! Both guys and gals use the humble apple to tell the future in many European countries. One method is to twist the stem of an apple while reciting the alphabet. Whatever letter you’re on when the stem pops off is said to be the first letter of your true love’s name. 

You can also peel an apple, making sure to keep the peeling all in one long strip. Throw the peeling over your left shoulder onto the floor. Now go and look straight down at it – whatever letter the fallen peeling most resembles is believed to be the first letter of your true love’s name.

Tradition tells us that if you eat an apple at midnight while looking into a mirror, you’ll see the face of your future wife or husband. And if you need to decide between lovers, folklore says to name an apple seed for each one. Get the seeds wet and throw them at the ceiling. Whichever one sticks is the one you will be happiest with.

Four-leaf clovers 

These are lucky according to tradition, but did you know that they’re also associated with love? If someone finds a four-leaf clover, they’ll meet their future spouse on that day. Dreaming of a four-leaf clover implies a happy and prosperous marriage in your future. And in Ireland, if a woman eats a four-leaf clover while concentrating on the man of her affections, it’s said that he’ll eventually be hers!


Dreams ... and St. Andrew!

There are many methods to invoke nighttime visions of the one you will marry. Rubbing the headboard with lemon peel before bed or wearing your nightclothes inside out will cause you to dream of your future lover. Sleeping with a piece of wedding cake under your pillow will also do the trick – and so will a handful of daisies, a mirror, a silver coin, five bay leaves or a wedding ring from a happy marriage! 

Efforts to dream of marriage partners are said to be most effective on Valentine’s Day (of course!) but also on the eve of St. Andrew’s Day (November 30). In addition to his other jobs, St. Andrew is the patron saint of unmarried women! In old Austria, young women would drink wine and then recite the Andreasgebet (St. Andrew's prayer), while naked and kicking a straw bed. This was supposed to cause the future husband to appear in her dreams. (I wonder how much wine this requires?)

On this day in Poland, melted lead was poured into cold water – the shape that the metal took was said to provide clues to the true love’s occupation. In Slovakia and the Czech Republic, names of potential husbands were written on slips of paper and rolled into balls of dough on St. Andrew’s Day. The dough balls were then boiled like dumplings. Whichever piece of dough cooked first, floated to the surface -- with the name of the future spouse inside.

Birds and love


Birds have often been used to foretell future spouses too. Seeing a goldfinch on St. Valentine’s Day was said to mean you’d marry a wealthy man. A sparrow indicated a poor but happy marriage. The sight of a robin flying overhead means you’ll marry a sailor. A flock of doves?  A happy marriage is in store for you. If you hear the coo of a dove on the first day of Spring, the next person you meet of the opposite sex is said to be your ideal mate. 

And last but not least, if you want to know if you’ll marry within a year, stand outside a chicken coop at midnight and knock on the door. If you hear a rooster, the answer is yes. If you hear a hen, the answer is no!



Did you know that love is usually the most asked-about topic in tarot readings? 

As a giveaway, I found a set of oracle cards (like tarot) that are devoted to inviting more love into your life ---- This pretty deck is called "Whispers of Love", and the cards have been designed by artist Angela Hartfield.  Be sure and enter the Rafflecopter contest below!  Giveaway is open to residents of USA, Canada and the UK.

Wishing you a thoughtful and loving February!

Sincerely,
Dani Harper
www.daniharper.com 
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NEW YEAR'S FOLKLORE - The Tradition of the "FIRST FOOTER"

Once the clock strikes midnight and the new year arrives, did you know it's often considered bad luck for anyone to leave the house? (Not even to take out the garbage and the empties!) Instead, many people still wait for the “first footer” to arrive – the very first person to cross the threshold and enter your home in the New Year. Who that first footer is will influence your luck for the next twelve months! 

This belief in the importance of the "first footer" is found in a surprising number of cultures all over the globe! In Vietnam, the first person through the door influences the family's prosperity for the entire year. A person of great prestige, success or integrity is actively sought to be their first footer. (At New Year's, no one visits a home uninvited!) You'll find the same tradition in Greece, where the first footer is specially selected. Once he's crossed the threshold after midnight, the lady of the house gives treats and sometimes coins to all of the guests to ensure good fortune.

For maximum good luck in Ireland, a dark-haired man should be first through the door. If he’s handsome and single, so much the better. And it’s really lucky if he arrives on a horse! (I'd have story material for the whole year after an entrance like that!) 

As with many first footer traditions, the man should bring a few symbolic gifts such as:
      some silver coins
      a loaf of bread
      a lump of coal or peat for the fire
      a branch of evergreen
      a bag or bowl of salt 

Ideally, the man will make his way through the entire house and then leave by a different door. 

So who wouldn't make a good first footer? In some parts of the British Isles, it was considered very bad luck for your first visitor after midnight to be a woman! A fair-haired man wasn't always welcome either  too much like the Viking invaders of old. Other first footer rejects included people with red hair, doctors, ministers, thieves, grave-diggers, or anyone with crossed eyes or flat feet. Also on the "no" list was anyone whose eyebrows met in the middle of their forehead – it was thought to be a sign of being a werewolf! (The Macleod family from my Changeling series would find this rather insulting.) Any such visitors would be shooed away from the doorstep or made to wait until someone more desirable had entered the house first.  

In most countries with a first footer tradition, it's critical for the very first traffic across the threshold to be headed IN rather than OUT. (Remember what I said about taking out the garbage? DON'T DO IT!) The symbolism is simple  it's desirable for people and prosperity to flow towards your home during the year to come. 

My favorite "first footer" tradition of all is said to come from the southern United States. The sex of the first visitor through the door doesn't influence prosperity, but is said to shape the balance of power in a marriage for the coming year. If a man enters, then the husband will have more power. If it's a woman, the wife will be the more powerful partner.

As for myself, I think I'd invite a couple who had been happily married for many years to step over the threshold at the same time. I think that would be the luckiest thing of all!

Wishing you a positive, safe, happy New Year -- and an adventure or two for fun!

Dani Harper
http://www.daniharper.com/
https://www.facebook.com/Dani.Harper.Fan.Page