The Myth and Lore of Mistletoe

-- Mistletoe is the official state flower of Oklahoma! --
Today we use mistletoe as a Christmas decoration (and occasionally steal a kiss under it). But mistletoe has a much longer history than Christmas itself.

Mistletoe is unusual in the plant world because it doesn’t grow in the earth at all. Instead, it’s an aerial parasite that lives only in the boughs of trees. This uncommon plant not only remains green throughout the winter, but produces its pure white berries right around the time of the winter solstice.

The ancient Celts believed mistletoe to be a sacred gift from the gods. The Romans recorded that the Celts would harvest mistletoe from a tree after the winter solstice. A druid – a Celtic priest – used a golden sickle to cut the plant. It was vital that the mistletoe never come in contact with the ground and so a white cloth was held beneath the tree to catch it. Two white bulls were then sacrificed to honor the god who provided the mistletoe and to petition him to increase the plant’s potency.

The druids were said to be skilled in both herbs and magic, and the mistletoe was one of the most powerful plants in their arsenal. A symbol of immortality, mistletoe was believed to have protective powers against evil spirits and the ability to heal diseases. Although mistletoe is a poisonous plant itself, in skilled hands it was considered to be an antidote to all poisons. It was also used to promote fertility of both animal and human and occasionally even used in aphrodisiac potions. This sacred plant was associated with good fortune and great blessings.

The mistletoe was so sacred that if enemies met in a forest and a mistletoe plant was spotted overhead, an automatic truce was declared until the following day. From this grew the practice of hanging mistletoe over the door, or suspending it from the ceiling as a symbol of peace and good will.

The Norse myth of Baldur takes us to the next phase of mistletoe tradition. The goddess, Frigga, was Baldur’s mother, and exacted a promise from every element, plant and animal, both on the earth and under the earth, not to harm Baldur. She forgot the mistletoe, which grows neither in the ground or on it. Loki, prankster and god of evil, tricked another god into shooting Baldur with an arrow made of mistletoe, which killed him. Fortunately, Balder is eventually brought back to life. His mother is so overcome with joy that she reverses the reputation of the offensive mistletoe, declaring that those who passed beneath a mistletoe plant should have a token kiss and be kept safe from harm.

Centuries later, both Celtic and Viking traditions were condemned by early Christianity as pagan, and mistletoe was forbidden to be displayed within sight of the church. However, that didn’t stop people from hanging mistletoe in their homes and barns or from wearing sprigs of it to ward off disease and evil. Mistletoe became known as All-heal, and is still used in homeopathic medicine.

It wasn’t until Victorian times that the plant’s original status as a symbol of peace and love was revived, and the practice of kissing under the mistletoe was reinstated.

Dani Harper
www.daniharper.com

Your turn --- In your wildest fantasy, who would YOU like to meet under the mistletoe?

Dani Harper on BLOGTALKRADIO Nov 29!

Really excited that I've been invited to visit with author Linda Mooney on her blogtalkradio program, "Other Worlds of Romance" I'll be reading an excerpt from my Celtic paranormal novella, A Leap of Knowing. ..................
NOTE - The show was recorded and is now available to listen to. The player is in the upper left hand corner of this blog.


Dani Harper
http://www.daniharper.com/

Tales from the Psychic Toolbox - TAROT Part 2

Tarot cards are not Magic 8-Balls. “You will meet a tall, handsome stranger...” is more the stuff of fortune cookies than tarot. The purpose of a reading isn’t to tell you what to do – it’s to engage your own intuition. The pictures on the cards are powerful psychological archetypes which can help you gain insight about yourself and your circumstances by tapping into your subconscious.

About the Tarot Deck
The traditional tarot deck has 78 cards, although modern variations may have fewer. Like ordinary playing cards, fifty-six of them are divided into four suits.

Instead of Hearts, Diamonds, Spades and Clubs, you have Wands, Cups, Swords and Pentacles.
Each suit has 14 cards, with numbers 1 through 10 plus four royal cards – Page, Knight, Queen and King.


What most people think of when they hear the word tarot are the archetypal cards, like “The Tower”, “The Star”, “Justice”, “The Fool”, “The Lovers”, and “The Sun”. There are 22 of these trump cards, called “The Major Arcana”. The 56 suit cards are “The Minor Arcana”. Arcana means mystery in Latin, and the term wasn’t applied to tarot cards until later in their history, about 1870.


A Sampling of the Major Arcana
From one of my all-time favorite decks:
STRENGTH by artist
Robert M. Place, 
http://www.amazon.com/Annotated-Tarot-Sevenfold-Mystery/dp/193519402X 

THE FOOL – Often the appearance of this card signifies a beginning of a journey, although not necessarily a physical one. It may be mental, emotional or spiritual in nature. Happiness and optimism abound.


THE LOVERS – This card often indicates harmony and union, but is not necessarily about love at all. It may represent choices to be made or a decision between two paths.


STRENGTH – This card typically shows a woman with a lion. She may be holding the lion’s mouth open or just standing beside it. The image represents not just strength, but courage, self-control and determination.


THE CHARIOT – This card often represents triumph over adversity, some obstacle overcome, a well-deserved victory.


THE EMPORER – As might be expected, this card signifies authority, corporate structure or government. It may stand for someone in a position of authority in your life, like a boss or a parent.


THE HANGED MAN – The picture is usually of a man dangling by his foot, and as such, often means a temporary suspension of progress. Circumstances may actually be turned on their head and a waiting period may be in the works.


OMG, I’ve drawn the Death Card!

From one of my all-time favorite decks:
DEATH by artist
Robert M. Place, 
http://www.amazon.com/Annotated-Tarot-Sevenfold-Mystery/dp/193519402X
With its skeletal figure, the Death card has been often been used in stories, movies and even video games to scare the bejeebers out of people. First and foremost, it’s not about literal death (whew!).

In fact, the Death card can be a very positive card. It's usually the symbol for CHANGE, signifying either the end of one thing or the beginning of another. It can mean transformation and regeneration, hope and rebirth. In fact, psychologist Carl Jung attributed the Death card in tarot with a new standpoint or perspective.

Think of the Chinese word for crisis – the glyph contains the symbols for both danger and opportunity, and opportunity is stronger. Drawing the Death card can indicate that despair can now give way to hope – a very good change!

Choosing your Tarot Deck
HELLO KITTY TAROT - with the least
scary Death card imaginable!
(Apparently not in print at this time)

You need to use a deck of cards that appeals to you and there are thousands of decks out there to choose from. Many people collect tarot decks for their gorgeous artwork (I own a Celtic deck called the Sacred Circle Tarot, simply because it’s beautiful).

Two popular decks have a Native American theme, the Sacred Path Cards: The Discovery of Self Through Native Teachings and Medicine Cards: The Discovery of Power Through the Ways of Animals.

If you have a particular passion, someone is sure to have designed a deck around it. For instance, the Tarot of White Cats (yes, all of the characters depicted in the cards are cats), Mystic Faerie Tarot, Salvador Dali Tarot and Golden Dragon Tarot. There’s even Hello Kitty Tarot! Shapes and sizes vary too. There are even decks with round cards, hexagonal and triangular cards!

It’s important to find cards that you feel good working with. It’s an intensely personal choice – what feels right to one person may feel very differently to someone else. The very first deck I purchased was the traditional Rider-Waite design. When I opened the box and touched the cards, I was repelled. It’s not that I didn’t know what they were going to look like, it’s that they didn’t feel good to me. I got a headache every time I tried to use them and I soon gave them away. Other people swear by the Rider-Waite and use nothing else. Through trial and error, I eventually found a deck called The Gilded Tarot. It’s a beautiful deck, but more importantly, the cards resonate with me and I can work with them easily.


Be Energy-Conscious

FENG SHUI TAROT
Owning your own deck of tarot cards and handling them regularly is very important. This is so the cards pick up your energy and hold it. For this reason, they shouldn’t be handled by anyone else. (This is also why buying a used deck of tarot cards isn’t advised – they’re saturated with energy from strangers.) In fact, most people who do tarot readings keep a separate deck only for that purpose or ask you to bring one of your own.

The more familiar you become with your personal deck and the more you develop a close working relationship with them, the more your natural intuition will be enhanced and the better your readings will become.

Some people believe that it’s bad karma or bad luck to buy your own tarot cards, that your first deck must be gifted to you by someone else. Most tarot readers agree that this is a myth. There’s nothing wrong with getting your own set of cards – in fact, it’s desirable to do this so you can select the deck that appeals most to you. Note: it might not be the deck you think. You might love all things Victorian, but a Victorian-themed deck of tarot cards may not work for you. Who knows, you might respond better to Feng Shui Tarot or even the brightly colored Hawaiian Tarot!


Books to Help You

There isn’t room in a blog to discuss all there is to know about tarot. You’re going to need a good book (or more than one) to use as a resource. As I said before, I mostly use Josephine Ellershaw’s Learning to Use the Tarot Once and For All, but you need to find the one that resonates best with you. Many tarot decks come with their own books, which is a good place to start.

You might want to look at books specifically designed for beginners such as Learning the Tarot: A Tarot Book for Beginners by Joan Bunning, Tarot for Beginners: An Easy Guide to Understanding and Interpreting the Tarot by P. Scott Hollander. There's even an Idiot’s Guide and a For Dummies book on Tarot! (I didn't like the For Dummies book myself, but someone else might.) 


For someone who wants a deeper understanding of Tarot, Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom by Rachel Pollack or Mary K. Greer's 21 Ways to Read a Tarot Card may be for you.

Most of all, don't forget that no matter what a book says, the meanings of the cards are fluid and adaptable. What a card means is what you feel it means. Intuition trumps all!Happy Reading!


Dani Harper
www.daniharper.com

YOUR TURN – Have you ever worked with Tarot before, or had a reading done for you? Is there a particular deck that you enjoy working with or a book that you’ve found helpful?

Tales from the Psychic Toolbox -- TAROT

"The true Tarot is symbolism; it speaks no other language and offers no other signs. Given the inward meaning of the emblems, they do become a kind of alphabet which is capable of indefinite combinations and makes true sense in all.” – Arthur Edward Waite

I came to my appreciation of tarot late. Like most people, I grew up thinking of tarot as those fortune-telling cards used by gypsies in old movies. Despite my interest in the paranormal, I didn’t even see a real tarot deck until I was ... okay, nevermind how old I was. Then a friend of mine told me how she used these cards as tools for personal growth and insight. That really got my attention. I started studying up on the subject of tarot and have found it both fascinating and useful. I'm still learning of course – and while I'm not sure if anyone ever finishes learning about tarot, I can share some of what I've learned so far.

Brief History of Tarot

The word tarot rhymes with “arrow” and refers to a deck of vividly illustrated cards, traditionally 78 in number with 56 of them divided into four suits and 22 trump cards that are not associated with any suit at all. Originating somewhere around the fifteenth century in Europe, these cards were used to play Tarocchi, an Italian game which still exists.

Since their invention, playing cards of all kinds were occasionally used for divining the future, and tarot was no exception. The Church in Europe didn't take issue with tarot specifically; rather, it condemned all playing cards due to their association with gambling and other vices.

Why Use Tarot?

Today, the Tarot is more popular than ever, but not for playing games. And while some people treat them like fortune cookies or Magic 8-Balls, tarot cards are most often used as a method of obtaining self-knowledge and an intuitive understanding of circumstances. Swiss psychologist, Carl Jung, studied the Tarot and described its symbols as "primitive or archaic thought-forms", and that “the unconscious is revealed in symbols”. He noted that, like dreams, Tarot symbols generally have some universal meaning but their interpretation could also be intensely personal. In other words, it doesn’t matter what a picture is supposed to mean, what really matters is what it means to YOU.

An effective tarot reading involves asking one clear and specific question. The tarot doesn’t lend itself to yes/no questions, but more to who, what, when, why and how. The tarot can help you sort out your own thoughts and feelings on a situation, can bring your intuition and subconscious to the forefront to help bring clarity. If there’s a situation I’m confused about or when I can’t decide on a course of action to take, a reading can sometimes help me think outside the box. And yes, I've even used it to help with writing. If I get well and truly mired in a plot, a tarot reading can sometimes help me see how I might work my way out of it. Notice that the tarot doesn't tell me what to do. Rather, it helps me help myself.

Tarot Readings

The person who desires a reading shuffles the deck while thinking of his question, then draws cards. The number of cards drawn can vary widely. Some people choose a single card, some three, for a “quickie” reading. A more detailed and in-depth reading uses many cards, laid out in a precise order and pattern (called a spread). The Celtic Cross spread is one of the most popular (I use this one myself), and requires ten cards. Sometimes an additional fan of three is added to it.

Another way of obtaining a tarot reading is to use an online computer program, such as the one at http://www.newagestore.com/Divination/Tarot.aspx . (This is a site I’ve used often and my anti-virus program has declared it safe) You can choose from a number of spreads and get a free personal reading. There is no human on the other end to skew the results. Yes, the computer program is designed to offer random cards, but some people believe our personal energies are stronger and we draw to us the same cards that we would if the deck was physically in front of us. You can also buy your own software for this purpose and personalize it.

You can go to someone else to have your reading done, but you need to find someone who is skilled, ethical and that you can communicate well with (just like choosing a doctor). As mentioned before, the symbols of the Tarot can be more useful for what they mean to you personally than what they are accepted to mean universally. A human reader needs to help you assign meaning to the cards you draw, rather than tell you “this card means this, this one means that”. While reading tarot requires no psychic powers, there IS an art to it. Some readers are wonderfully gifted. Some aren’t. And no, I’ve never tried any of the spammy-looking “Live Psychic Reading” sites that appear in ads all over the internet – it just doesn’t seem to me like a productive way to connect with someone with the traits I’m looking for.

You Don't Have To Be Psychic

What about reading the tarot for yourself? Anyone can learn to read tarot but how to learn depends on the individual. There are courses to be found, depending on where you live, but the easiest method has to be to pick up a book. There are many good ones on the subject, yet you may have to read several before you find one that “speaks” to you. I’ve run across a few that were more confusing than helpful, but when I found the deck that was right for me, The Guilded Tarot, it happened to come with the “Easy Tarot: Learn to Read the Cards Once and For All!” by Josephine Ellershaw. http://www.amazon.com/Easy-Tarot-Learn-Read-Cards/dp/0738711500/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1287940891&sr=8-2   This lovely set proved to be the perfect resource for a beginner. Ellershaw has a very laidback and easy to understand approach and I continue to use both book and deck to this day. There’s a review of her book at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YLZ17MLJx60 .  YouTube, by the way, is the source of MANY videos on “How To Read Tarot”, some good, some not so much. My personal rule of thumb is that a book or a course or a website was worth my time if I learned just one or two things from it.

More about Tarot in an upcoming blog!

Dani Harper
www.daniharper.com

YOUR TURN - Have you ever used tarot cards or had a reading done?

Can Dreams Predict the Future?

"A dream which is not interpreted is like a letter which is not read."
- The Talmud

Humans have been fascinated by dreams for thousands of years. In many ancient cultures,  dreams were accorded great respect and actively used in decision-making. The Bible, the Talmud and the Koran contain hundreds of passages about dreams and dream interpretation. Today, not much has changed. A study published in the February 2009 issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology shows that most people believe that their dreams are sources of meaningful insight, revealing hidden truths about themselves and their world.
 
DREAM SYMBOLS
Most psychologists agree that dreams are often filled with symbols, subconscious indicators of what you really think and feel. A dream of being lost for instance, of being unable to find your way, can mean that you feel unprepared for something in your waking life. A dream of drowning can show that you feel overwhelmed. However, a dream dictionary is of limited use because symbols can mean different things to different people – dreaming about being naked in public can point to a fear of ridicule or a fear of having secrets exposed. But it can also mean an effort on your part to present your authentic self.

Dreaming about spiders can be positive for some. They’re often a symbol of creativity or good fortune. Psychiatrist Carl Jung wrote that spider webs were like mandalas, a symbol of wholeness because of their circular shape and complexity. For me, if I’m dreaming about spiders (which I freely admit scare the bejeebers out of me), I know that my stress levels in my waking life are off the charts and I need to do something about it.

INSPIRATION THROUGH DREAMS
Many scientists and inventors have experienced inspiration through their dreams. Albert Einstein was inspired by a dream whereby he was sledding down a mountainside ever faster, watching the appearance of the stars change as he approached the speed of light. The result? The theory of relativity. Frederich Kekule discovered the chemical structure of benzene in a dream. He later said: "Let us learn to dream, gentlemen, and then we may perhaps find the truth."

Countless artists and writers have also been inspired by dreams. Edgar Allan Poe based many of his works on dreams (or perhaps nightmares). In her 'Introduction' to the 1831 edition of Frankenstein, Mary Shelley revealed that the story was inspired by a dream. Best-selling author Stephen King says that dreams have been the source for many of his unique plots. Former Beatle Paul McCartney reported that the tune for Yesterday came to him in a dream in 1965. Even legendary golfer, Jack Nicklaus, discovered a new way to hold his golf club in a dream!

CAN DREAMS PREDICT THE FUTURE?
It’s possible that in some cases the subconscious mind has observed and pieced together clues that the conscious mind hasn’t noticed. But that only works with things you’ve seen. What if you dream about something you’ve never seen or heard of before?

This is something that has happened for me since I was a small child. Many of my most vivid and memorable dreams have been about places. Eventually I go there – sometimes days, sometimes years later – and see it in real life. I really wish I’d dream about Hawaii or Africa or some exotic locale like that, but usually it’s fairly pedestrian. For instance I dreamed of a restaurant/bar that was painted forest green. It had an odd stairway leading inside, and the doorway was cramped. Inside, the décor and furnishings were very distinct, right down to the chalkboard with the day’s specials. Within a month, I went to visit one of my older daughters in another part of the country and we went on a road trip to an area I’d never been. She took me to a restaurant that she wanted me to try – and it was the one from my dream.

My youngest daughter also lives a long way from me. She has very dark hair, and just this week I dreamed that I had “her” hair (I’m blonde). I was sitting in a beauty shop and an unseen hairdresser was putting vivid red streaks through the dark brown hair. I thought it was a pretty peculiar dream – until I phoned my daughter and told her about it. It turns out that she had just had red highlights put into her hair.

Precognitive dreams don’t necessarily mean anything – there was no action that needed to be taken in the above two cases for example. Sometimes, however, they have a purpose. I remember one incident in particular where a friend had taken me to the mountains where we were going to spend a day on horseback. I was excited about it – I love horses – but also terrified because of some riding accidents I’d experienced. I hadn’t been on a horse in a few years. That night I dreamed about a tall bay horse with white socks. He was on the thin side and had a very unusual blue and white checkered halter. In my dream, this horse was gentle and responsive, and I had a wonderful ride. The next morning I told my friend about the dream as we traveled to the ranch. When the ranch hand assigned us our horses, he brought me the horse from my dream – and his bridle had been buckled on over a blue and white checkered halter! I will never forget the look on my friend’s face when she saw that. And yes, I was able to completely relax and enjoy one of the best rides ever because of my dream.

Are all of my dreams precognitive? Not at all. In fact, most of them aren’t. But I’ve had enough of the predictive ones to recognize, as do many people, that precognitive dreams tend to feel different. In fact, I usually experience them as dreams within dreams – where I’m already dreaming and then have a period of heightened awareness in which I know that what I’m seeing is different from the rest of the dream.

FAMOUS CASES
Many famous people have seen the future in their dreams. One of the most notable was Abraham Lincoln, who experienced a number of such visions. The most well-known occurred in 1865, just two weeks before he was assassinated. In his dream, Lincoln saw a funeral at the White House. He asked someone who was in the casket and they replied, "the president of the United States".

American novelist Mark Twain had a dream in which he saw the body of his brother, Henry, in a metal coffin in his sister’s living room. There was a single bright red flower on the casket. Soon afterwards, his brother was killed in a riverboat accident. Most people were buried in wooden coffins, but a stranger raised the money to furnish a metal one for Henry. Mark Twain was shocked to enter his sister’s home and see everything as it had been in his dream. As he watched, a woman placed a bouquet of flowers containing a single bright red rose on the coffin.

After the Titanic sunk in 1912, hundreds of people came forward to report their dreams of disaster. In some cases, the dream had kept them from booking passage on the ill-fated ship. Likewise with 9/11. Many people reported experiencing dreams up to four years in advance of the tragic event.

SCIENCE AND DREAMS
Mainstream science doesn’t yet accept the concept of precognition. But some people are now theorizing that psychic abilities could have a sound basis. During sleep, when our minds are less cluttered, perhaps we can sense things that elude us when we’re awake. We may be able to tune into a subtle frequency or a resonance when our minds are quiet. After all, according to Einstein, the future already exists. Perhaps, accidently or intentionally, some people can plug into it.

Maybe all of us can, if we just knew how.



Dani Harper

http://www.daniharper.com/

YOUR TURN - Have you ever had a dream that turned out to be true?

Night of the Living Dread – Zombies


“Sometimes they come back…”

This is true of both trends and the living impaired. Zombies have been enjoying a renewed popularity at the movie theater. And now they’ve gone where no corpse has gone before – romance novels. No kidding, check out Amazon for titles like My Zombie Valentine, Zombie Moon, Hungry for Your Love: An Anthology of Zombie Romance, and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

I totally enjoyed the movie Zombieland last year – yet still experienced a kind of creeping unease as I did so. Maybe it’s because I was introduced to zombies when I was very young and I’ve never quite recovered. There was a TV station that showed old black and white horror movies (double feature, no less) every Saturday afternoon. Classic or campy, I watched them all. (Those were the good old days when nobody worried about scarring little kids for life…)

At the tender age of seven, Night of the Living Dead really should have been called “Nightmares for the Rest of Your Life”. Even Plan 9 from Outer Space, arguably one of the worst movies of all time, had enough zombie action to scare me silly. When I was older, I saw Omega Man. What a tagline -- Pray for the last man alive. Because he's not alone. I was totally terrified of the light-sensitive flesh-eating psychopathic zombies.

Incidently, I Am Legend in 2007 also featured light-sensitive flesh-eating psychopathic zombies. They scared me too.

In 2002, 28 Days Later nearly made me swear off the living impaired forever. My teenagers teased me mercilessly because I had to sleep with the light on for the next three nights. (I’m still trying to work up the courage to watch the sequel, 28 Weeks Later.)

But I loved Zombieland. Like Shaun of the Dead, it made me laugh, a nice distraction (like whistling in the dark) from the lurching, rotting, reanimated corpses that still creep me out big time. I'm even looking forward to Zombieland II, in 3-D.

Would I have had to sleep with the lights on if 28 Days Later had been shot with comic lines and sight gags? I’ll never know…

“Are zombies real?”

Yes, no and maybe. Yes, some days a hangover or a headcold can make you feel like one. Yes, many people will testify that some of their coworkers are living impaired. No, nobody is crawling out of the cemetery in search of brains.

Have living human beings ever been turned into zombies? Maybe.

Zombies have their origin in the voodoo or vodoun religion of the Caribbean (esp. Haiti) and New Orleans, Louisiana. Practitioners have immense knowledge of plant- and animal-based pharmaceuticals. In the hands of houngons and mambas (good priests and priestesses), they are used to help and heal people. But a bokor (a sorcerer of black magic) may employ this knowledge for his own gain.

It’s been suggested (though never proven) that zombies might be created using a mixture that includes neurotoxins from puffer fish (those things that’ll kill you in a Japanese restaurant if not prepared properly) and chemicals from a certain type of toad. The story goes that the right proportions of these and other ingredients will induce a coma where life signs are not detectable. After stealing the “body”, the bokor wakes the person and administers a hallucinogenic plant. Now an obedient “zombie”, the disoriented and confused victim is said to provide cheap labor for the bokor.

Whether chemically induced or psychologically suggested, so great is the fear of zombification in Haiti that allegedly there’s been a law against it since 1835. Administering a substance that produces a prolonged period of lethargy without causing death so as to result in the burial of the victim is classed as murder – even if the victim survives. By the way, Haitians aren’t afraid of zombies per se – the fear is that they or someone they love will become one.

And in this country? A teenager’s t-shirt spotted yesterday says it all:
VOTE YES FOR THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE !

Dani Harper
http://www.daniharper.com/

YOUR TURN – Are you a zombie movie fan? Do you think zombies could exist?

Who's afraid of Friday the 13th?

Are you a triskaidekaphobe? Blame it on the Vikings.

That ten-dollar word refers to someone who is afraid of the number 13. And the Vikings apparently regarded 13 as a sinister number because their trickster god, Loki, once crashed a party for 12 at Valhalla and caused the death of beloved Baldur, god of joy and light. (No doubt this is also the origin of the term “party-pooper”)

The number 13 is bad enough, but add it to a Friday and the bad luck just gets worse. For one thing, you’ll have more big words to deal with – if you’re afraid of Friday the 13th, then you have friggatriskaidekaphobia, also called paraskevidekatriaphobia.

Think about it. Even if you don’t believe in luck or bad karma or cosmic forces, do you still hesitate before buying a lottery ticket on Friday the 13th? Or starting an important project? Or traveling? You might brush it off and carry on with your plans, but the day is so ingrained in our culture that few of us are immune. Fear of Friday the 13th is considered the most common phobia in America. But it’s not just us – one in four Europeans suffer from it too.

A calendar year may have 1 to 3 “thirteenths” occurring on a Friday, and those years with the maximum number are considered to be particularly calamitous. Fortunately for the fearful, the triple threat years don’t happen very often. 2009 was the first year this century to have a trio of Friday the 13ths. Before that, 1998 and 1987 were the unlucky years.

2010 is a relatively mild year for the superstitious, with only one Friday the 13th, which occurs in August. The year 2012 is another story – unsurprisingly, it will have THREE! (Is this what the Mayans were warning us about?)

Superstitions about the number 13 and/or Friday the 13th

• If you cut your hair on Friday the 13th, someone in your family will die. (Does it depend on how good the haircut is?)

• A clock striking 13 portends a death in the family. (Again with the family!) Or it may signal paranormal activity.

• If you’re born on Friday the 13th, you’ll be unlucky for life. Not to worry, apparently it’ll also be a short life!

• It’s bad luck to marry on this day. (In Middleton, New York, in 1913, a pastor offered to marry couples for free on Friday the 13th to counteract the superstition.)

• If you’re passed by a funeral procession on Friday the 13th, you’ll be the next to die. (So is everyone the procession passes doomed? You could wipe out most of a town in one fell swoop!)

• Leaving on vacation? Bad karma to do it on the 13th. Historically, mariners have declined to set sail on that day.

• It’s unlucky to have 13 coins in your pocket. (Given the current financial crisis, however, you’re fortunate to have any…)

• Wearing black on Friday the 13th will cause you to have to wear it to a funeral soon.

• Thirteen stairs? Bad news. (My knees think so too.) In British history, tradition held that a gallows had 13 steps, and Friday was known as “the hangman’s day”. Literally.

• Numbers that add up to 13 are unlucky as well, like 76 or 409. And you don’t want the number 13 in your street address. (In Florence, Italy, a house next to number 12 will be named 12 ½ , followed by 14!)

• Never have 13 place settings at the dinner table; it’s said that one guest may die within a year. Since the 1700s, Christian tradition has held that there were 13 people in attendance at The Last Supper. In France, you can still hire a professional quatorzieme, or 14th guest to balance your dinner party and avoid calamity.

Many airports still don’t have a Gate 13. Ronald Reagan National in Washington is on that list. So is Chicago’s Midway. Tall buildings and even hospitals still sometimes skip having a 13th floor (in name at least – the floor is still there of course). Hotels have known for years that customers dislike rooms with the number 13 in them.

Even Wall Street has been a little apprehensive about the day since the early 1900s. And of course, October 13, 1989 was the day of the Friday the 13th mini-crash, the second largest drop of the Dow in its history. (Mind you, it was a slide of a whopping 190.58 points. After the events of the past couple of years, it barely merits a raised eyebrow.)

Famous people with phobias

If you’re fearful of the number 13 or Friday the 13th, you’re not alone. Here’s just a few of the famous:

Stephen King

PT Barnum

Franklin Roosevelt

J. Paul Getty

Mark Twain

Herbert Hoover

Napoleon

Can you escape Friday the 13th?

No matter how enlightened we think we are, a lot of us exercise caution on this calendar day. In fact, it’s estimated that the US loses almost a billion dollars in business on Friday the 13th, because so many people postpone major purchases and reschedule trips. And that doesn’t count the number of workers who call in sick.

The Dutch Centre for Insurance Statistics published a study a couple years back, comparing accident, fire and theft rates on Fridays. Interestingly, there were fewer incidents on each Friday the 13th . It’s thought that people were naturally being more careful due to the superstition. The day will have its due however – the monetary losses for Friday the 13th were slightly higher!

The town fathers of French Lick, Indiana, tried to be proactive in October, 1939. They decreed that all black cats in town wear bells on Friday the 13th so that people could avoid them. This practice stayed on the books through 1941. After a particularly bad Friday the 13th (no mention of what happened), the law was reinstated for 1942. The person with the worst luck in all of this was probably the town marshal, whose job it was to bell all those cats.

Of course, you can always fight superstition with superstition. To counteract Friday the 13th, folklore says you can climb to a high place (mountain or skyscraper, whatever’s handiest) and burn all of your socks that have holes in them. Or you can walk around your house 13 times on Friday the 13th and hang your shoes out the window.

It goes without saying you should avoid anyone wearing a hockey mask.

Dani Harper

http://www.daniharper.com/ (Facebook and Twitter links are on my website)
Sign up for my email newsletter by clicking here:
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Your turn – How do YOU feel about the number 13 or Friday the 13th?

Are You Psychic?

Many people believe in the existence of ESP – extra-sensory perception – or psychic ability. But have you ever considered that YOU might have one or more of these talents? In fact, some believe that all human beings are psychic (although, as with music, art and sports, some may be more gifted than others). It has been suggested that all psychic abilities are examples of tapping into our shared or collective human consciousness, and recent discoveries in quantum physics may one day explain it.

Meanwhile, do you have psychic talent? Sometimes it’s just a matter of definition. You might be doing something routinely that you never thought of as ESP-related before. Looking at the following list of psychic abilities, common and uncommon, you might be surprised to find something that resonates with your own experience.

Déjà vu – been there, done that, doing it again!

Baseball legend Yogi Berra said it best: "This is like déjà vu all over again." Déjà vu (French for already seen) is the feeling that you’ve experienced something before and is the most common of the ESP repertoire. In fact, most people don’t even think of it as a psychic ability. Over 60 percent of those quizzed in reputable polls not only believe in the phenomenon but feel they have experienced it.

Retrocognition - knowledge of the past

Sometimes called postcognition, this is knowledge after the fact. Most people experience this as a sudden flash or a vision of an event. You’d suddenly “see” what actually happened, perhaps even through someone else’s eyes. You’d be acutely aware of details, things you couldn’t know by ordinary means. You might feel or sense the emotions or vibes of the past. Sometimes retrocognition includes past life regression, although it’s possible you might be picking up on a powerful impression (traumatic and emotional events like battles, murders, etc. can leave their psychic stamp behind) rather than one of your own previous lives.

Precognition - knowledge of the future

Ever think of a song you haven’t heard in years and years and soon afterwards you hear it being played? Foretelling the future is the talent we associate most with the term “psychic”. It conjures up images of crystal balls and tarot cards, palm reading and rune casting. For most of us, though, it’s the premonition that tells us something is about to happen, or the dream that has us wondering if we should change our plans. At least a third of the population believes that some dreams can convey information about the future. Intuition, premonitions and “gut feelings” fall under this category, and precognition often goes hand in hand with clairsentience (see section on this).

Telepathy

This is the ability to communicate mind to mind without the use of verbal speech. (The Changelings in my new paranormal romance series do this when they’re in wolfen form) Sometimes the information is sent by mental speech, sometimes by images. Medium John Edward says he gets images of pink roses when a spirit is trying to convey love. There are many documented cases of a telepathic connection between twins that science still doesn’t understand. By the way, there’s a movie called Telepathy coming out next year -- Russian scientists experiment with twins to see if telepathy can be used in earth-space communication.

Psychometry

Psychometry is based on the principle that all objects absorb energy from their surroundings. Some people are said to be able to pick up an item of clothing or a piece of jewelry and be able to tell something about its owner. Or they may be able to touch a piece of furniture and tell its history, or simply pick up uncomfortable vibes from it. This may manifest as a phobia. Actor Billy Bob Thornton (whose mother is a psychic) is quite open about his fear of antique furniture and says it “creeps him out”. When in Europe he shuns historical hotels and seeks out the most modern accommodations possible.

Clairsensing – beyond the sixth sense

There isn’t just a sixth sense, there’s a seventh, eighth, ninth, etc., all under the umbrella of clairsensing or “the clairs”. The words are taken from the French. Clair can mean light, bright or clear – think of the word “clarity”. Clairvoyant then means clear-sighted, clairaudience means clear-hearing and clairsentience means clear-knowing. The following is a list of the more common clairsenses:

CLAIRVOYANCE – This one is often confused with the ability to predict the future (precognition), but it actually refers more to visions or something called remote viewing. This psychic ability might allow a person to describe a place they have never been, or a hidden object, or even an activity which is a considerable distance away. Remote viewing has even been used to try to locate archeological sites, and governments around the world (including the US) have invested in programs to study the potential of remote viewing for gathering intelligence. The 2009 George Clooney movie, The Men Who Stare at Goats, was a comedic treatment of the topic - with more truth than you might think.

CLAIRSENTIENCE – Sometimes called claircognizance, this is clear knowing. Ever hear the phone ring and you know who it is before you answer it? Clairsentience is knowledge that comes to you without an apparent source. You might have a strong gut feeling or a hunch that you should keep your distance from someone you just met, even though they’ve given you no reason not to trust them. Most people chalk experiences like this up to intuition. Oddly, intuition is seldom thought of as a psychic gift!

CLAIRAUDIENCE – This is hearing sounds or voices that others can’t. They may be physically heard with the ears or perceived “inside one’s head” like telepathy or even channeling. Some mediums say this is how they get their information from the spirits they connect with. Probably a little scarier than other psychic gifts because it’s easily mistaken for schizophrenia!

CLAIRALIENCE – Sometimes called clairaroma, this is the ability to perceive a smell where one doesn’t exist. Sometimes visiting spirits are accompanied by a distinctive scent, and I’d have to put my hand up on this one. One winter day as I was putting laundry away, the room was suddenly thick with the smell of lilacs. At the same time, I heard my Welsh grandmother’s distinctive chuckle in my mind. She’d passed away some years before, but her signature scent had been lilac – I well remember the bottles of lilac perfume, jars of lilac body powder and other lilac-smelling cosmetics on her dresser. So clairaroma and clairaudience combined to give me a brief connection to a family member on the other side.

Sometimes this gift is said to offer warnings, such as if you smell gas in the house when no one else does (although you might just have a keener nose than your friends and family and you really DO smell gas!) And it should be mentioned that terrible odors have often been reported as part of a haunting, or in a place where something dreadful has happened and the energy is particularly dark.

CLAIRGUSTANCE – Sometimes called clairgustus, this is the odd ability to taste something without having put anything into your mouth. It’s generally associated with a spirit, perhaps the favorite food of that person or a food they prepared a certain way. Or it might be a substance associated with the spirit in some way – reports have listed the taste of alcohol, medication, metal, tobacco or sometimes even blood.

How do you find and strengthen your psychic abilities?

Many times it’s a matter of increasing your awareness of what’s already going on. We’re in such a hurry most of the time that we could be having all sorts of psychic experiences and not know it. Slowing down can make a huge difference. Pay attention. Focus. Pause a few seconds before you do things like open the mail, answer the door or pick up the phone. Here’s a fun exercise - Take a moment before you turn the page in a magazine. Is there already an impression or a picture in your head? Maybe it’s red lipstick or Brad Pitt, maybe a new car or a hamburger. Look and see if you were right. (This is a great game to play with friends too.)

Be sure to write down your experiences, no matter how small. Keeping a journal will help to build your awareness. It’s like trying to remember your dreams – keeping a pad and pencil by your bed and making a habit of writing things down when you awaken actually trains your brain to recall things.

Just for fun or to seriously test how psychic you are, you might want to try out some online ESP quizzes (look for reputable ones, and pages that your browser says are safe). This one posted by Stephen Wagner on About.com is a good one http://paranormal.about.com/library/weekly/aa050800a.htm

Dani Harper
http://www.daniharper.com/

YOUR TURN – Do you feel that psychic ability exists? Have you had an experience with déjà vu, precognition, or clairsensing of some kind? If you could have one of these abilities, which would you choose?

Séances – Connecting with the Dead

Ask twenty people what a séance is and you’ll no doubt get very similar answers. The concept is so ingrained in popular culture that it immediately conjures an image of a group of people seated around a table in the dark as a medium attempts to contact the spirit of a deceased person. However, it was history rather than Hollywood that first gave us that picture.
The séance became extremely popular during the Victorian era on both sides of the Atlantic, with the emergence of the Spiritualist movement* in America. Some séances were frivolous, of course, and entered into purely for entertainment. Some were fraudulent, with fake mediums determined to capitalize on the trend (and often people’s grief) by implementing what we would now call special effects. But there were many séance holders who were sincere in their purpose, seeking some sort of harmony between religion and rationality.

Séances in the White House?

Many notable individuals made use of séances. It’s well documented that Mary Todd Lincoln held several at the White House, which were attended by her husband Abraham Lincoln, as well as high-ranking members of Washington society. Calvin Coolidge and his wife were rumored to have also held seances, although they denied it when the press got hold of it.

Author Charles Dickens, poet W.B. Yeats and physicist Sir Oliver Lodge attended séances regularly as members of The Ghost Club – a British organization devoted to paranormal investigation. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle attended his first séance in 1887, the same year his first Sherlock Holmes novel was published. He viewed spiritualism as a natural extension of rapidly-emerging science.

Séances (also called “sittings”) and “demonstrations of mediumship” still form a regular part of church services for many practicing Spiritualists today. They believe that existence and personal identity continues after the change called death. To them, contact with those who have moved on to the next life is not only possible, but desirable in order to gain knowledge. Actor Dan Ackroyd’s great grandfather was a Spiritualist, who practiced regular communications with ghosts in his home. (Read about Dan’s unusual family life in History of Ghosts: The True Story of Séances, Mediums, Ghosts, and Ghostbusters )

Origins of the séance

The term Séance comes to the English language from an Old French word meaning “a sitting” or “session”, as in a meeting of a legislative body. In the mid-1800s, séance began to be used to describe a gathering where people sought messages and advice from the unseen world. The concept of contacting the dead, however, is far, far older than the words we use to describe it now.

In ancient Greece and Italy, the practice of necromancy – summoning the dead and asking them questions about the future – was called nekyia. There were a number of Greek and Roman temples devoted to this rite, although the ceremony could be performed in other places such as gravesites. The ancient Persians, Arabians, Chaldeans, Etruscans and Babylonians also contacted the dead for information.

Facilitators for the dead

Nearly all séances depend on someone with psychic ability or sensitivity to act as a medium, “facilitating” the proceedings. Spirits may make use of a wide variety of communication methods; as the character, Dean Winchester, aptly said in Supernatural, “…communicating across the vale, it ain't easy.” The medium may gain impressions of the spirit in question, see the spirit in their mind or with their eyes, hear the spirit’s words or channel the spirit’s words through the psychic’s own mouth, or channel their ideas through automatic writing. The spirit may be skilled enough to able to make itself audible or even visible to more than one person in the room or it may have to utilize rapping and other physical manifestation to communicate at all.

By the way, in recent years a new type of séance has emerged called “stage mediumship”. One of the best examples of this is psychic John Edward, who receives impressions and messages from ghosts associated with audience members. Rather than focus on a specific spirit, he works with whichever spirit would like to communicate at the time.

When to hold a séance

There are two times a year when the veil between worlds is said to be at its thinnest. One is Beltane, about the 1st day of May, and the other is Samhain, which is October 31 or November 1. Communicating with spirits is said to be easier at these times.

It has been claimed by some that connecting with the ghosts of the recently deceased is easier than trying to talk to those who’ve been away from the mortal plane a long time. This is because the spirits of the newly dead are more likely to still be around. The more time that passes, the more likely that the spirit has moved on.

Most mediums prefer to hold séances after dark. Some séances are held on dates that are significant to a particular spirit – a birthday, an anniversary of an event, etc.

Tools for séances

Some mediums do not require tools; others are more comfortable using them. Candles, tarot cards, even crystals and gazing balls may be helpful to the medium, but there are no hard rules about them. So it won’t matter much if you have seven candles or three, a blue tablecloth for your table or no table at all. It’s whatever works best for you and creates an atmosphere where you are receptive and relaxed.

The best tool of all may be your attitude. Not enough is said about respect when dealing with the paranormal. On a number of TV shows, investigators are often shown challenging spirits, even yelling at them to provoke them into manifesting themselves. The spirits you’re seeking are people, and it’s tough to gain anyone’s cooperation on either side of the veil with a belligerent attitude. Any spirit that does respond to this kind of treatment may not be pleasant.

Why perform a séance?

One of the cardinal rules of séances is that there should be a purpose. The group needs to be focused on a goal, either a specific question and/or a specific person. Desiring comfort or closure after a loved one has passed is a common goal. Seeking to know what happened to an individual who has disappeared or lost their life is also common. Often times the living seek counsel and advice for their own lives. By the way, the deceased person is not necessarily privy to the secrets of the universe just because they’re dead. Have realistic expectations.

Calling up spirits “just for the fun of it” is not recommended. This is a good way to get into trouble. Anyone who thinks spirit entities can’t hurt you should read these articles: http://www.examiner.com/x-1001-Ghost-Hunting-Examiner~y2009m2d2-Dangers-of-the-paranormal-a-cautionary-tale-for-ghost-hunters  and http://robjo.wordpress.com/2006/12/04/tips-and-tricks-for-your-next-seance/

If you’re genuinely interested in making contact, it’s always a better idea to utilize an experienced and reputable medium than to have your college roommate “wing it” after a few beers. If you want to try mediumship yourself, study up on it until you find a method that feels comfortable to you, know how to protect yourself and your home, and be sure to select sincere people to participate with you. Here’s a place to start – http://paganwiccan.about.com/od/wiccanandpaganrituals/ht/Hold_Seance.htm

Dani Harper
http://www.daniharper.com/
Facebook and Twitter links are on my website.


Your turn – Have you ever attended a séance? If you could contact someone from the other side, who would it be?

First Day of Summer - Celebrating the Solstice

As the sun spirals its longest dance,

Cleanse us

As nature shows bounty and fertility

Bless us

Let all things live with loving intent

And to fulfill their truest destiny

Wiccan blessing for summer solstice

What are you going to do on the longest day of the year? Will you watch the sun come up, jump over a bonfire, wear flowers, get married, dance around a maypole or (if you’re in Latvia) run through the streets naked?

June 21st is the Solstice, the official first day of summer in the Northern Hemisphere, and the day the sun will reach its highest point in the sky. How long the day lasts depends on where you are. In a nutshell, the farther north you go, the longer the day lasts. In Sacramento, California, the sun will come up at 5:42 a.m. and set at 8:33 p.m. In Anchorage, Alaska, however, sunrise will occur at 4:20 a.m. and sunset at 11:42 p.m. And above the Arctic Circle, the sun doesn’t set at all!

The Solstice gets its name from two Latin words – “sol” for sun and “sistere” meaning to stand still. So Solstice can be interpreted as “standing sun”, because the sun appears to pause in the sky. Summer Solstice is known in other traditions as Midsummer, All Couples Day, St. John’s Day or Litha.

Bonfires – central to the celebration

The Summer Solstice has been observed by many different cultures and religions since the most ancient times, and many of the methods of celebration are similar. Common to almost all cultures is the building of a bonfire. It was usually said to honor the gods and frighten away evil spirits, so the bigger the fire the better. In some places like Estonia, failing to light a bonfire invited your home to burn down during the coming year. Many people held that jumping over the fire would bring luck and prosperity. So would walking between two “purifying” fires. Sometimes the straw effigy of a witch or a devil is burned on the bonfire to drive away evil. Herbs and flowers might be thrown on the fire, followed by the making of a wish. In almost all traditions, drinking, dancing and singing around the bonfire formed a large part of the solstice celebrations.

For some, the solstice was thought to be a time of magic, a time when the veil between the real world and the spirit world was very thin. The fae or faeries were rumored to be at their most powerful on the Summer Solstice. Fireflies on the Solstice were rumored to be Will o’ Wisps in disguise. Offerings were – and often still are – left for them in Celtic countries. Some wiccans might still tie tiny bells or ribbons to their wands on this day to pay homage to the faeries. It’s considered a potent day to make charms or work spells, and a good night to look into the future.

Green and growing things

Many cultures believed – and still do – that the Solstice was the ideal time to harvest medicinal plants because they were at their most potent. The species varied from place to place but a few of the more common ones were rosemary, fennel, lemon verbena, elder flowers, St. John’s wort, mallow, foxgloves and ferns. In the vodun (voodoo) and santeria religions, mistletoe is gathered on this day.

Plants played a strong role in other aspects of Solstice celebration. In many traditions, wearing garlands of herbs and flowers on the Solstice was said to ward off evil spirits and sickness. Putting flowers under her pillow on that night might bring a girl dreams of her future spouse. Many traditions called for decorating the doorways of houses and barns with greenery. In Russia, this was thought to signify abundance and thereby bring good fortune. In Finland, the front door is flanked by two young birch trees. In many cultures women would wear garlands and crowns of flowers, men would wear crowns of leaves. Some wiccan rituals call for the crowning of two men as part of the celebration, one with oak leaves for the god of the waxing year, and one with holly leaves, symbolic of the god of the waning year.

Dancing around a maypole or stang (a tall post with many long streamers fastened at the top and trailing loose to the ground) was an activity common to many countries on the Solstice. In Finland and Sweden, the pole is decorated with flowers and greenery, and many of the dancers wear crowns of flowers.

Magic in the Water


Water had special properties on the Solstice. For the Vikings, that meant drawing water from “healing wells”. In many countries, all springs were considered sacred during the solstice, and the water from them was particularly desirable.

In Spain, women who wanted to be fertile bathed in the ocean until nine waves had passed over them. In Norse tradition, women rolled naked in the morning dew on the day of the solstice to gain fertility. If you had harvested medicinal plants, they were most effective if dipped in the water collected on the Solstice from seven springs. After washing the plants, people would wash their faces in the water to make them beautiful. In Russia, young girls placed garlands of flowers in the nearest river; the movement of the garland would indicate their future.

Traditions combined


Christianity merged with paganism in many countries, and established St. John’s Day or The Feast of St. John on or near the Solstice. John the Baptist was said to be born six months before Christ, and the Summer Solstice falls six months before the Winter Solstice (where Christianity again took over a pagan holiday and established Christmas). While church services are often held, most of the methods of celebration, such as building bonfires, remained the same. This holiday is still celebrated in many countries such as Spain, Bulgaria and France and also in the French-speaking province of Quebec in Canada.

Where to celebrate the Solstice

Wiccans might hold private celebrations in a garden or forest. In Ireland, Solstice bonfires might be lit on hilltops where they can be seen for miles. And in England, many pagans gather to watch the sunrise at sacred ancient sites such as Stonehenge. On the solstice, the sun rises directly above a 16-foot monolith there called the “heel stone”. Stonehenge may be the most famous but, in fact, many prehistoric sites in many countries are aligned with the summer solstice sun. These include sites right here in America, such as the Big Horn Medicine Wheel in the mountains of Wyoming, the Serpent Mound in Ohio, Mystery Hill in New Hampshire, and Fajada Butte in Chaco Canyon.

What to serve on the Solstice

Traditional foods for the Solstice vary from country to country. Freshly harvested fruits and vegetables figure prominently, particularly anything that was yellow or golden in honor of the sun. In Sweden for instance, the first new potatoes are harvested and eaten on this day. Small cakes of corn or flour played a role in most celebrations, and of course wine, or ale. Mead -- an alcoholic beverage made of honey, yeast and water – figures in many traditions. The midsummer month was called the honey month or honey moon in many languages allegedly because of the mead served at the many weddings performed at Solstice.

The old and the new...

And oh yes, Latvia. This tiny country celebrates Midsummer in a big way, with all the usual traditions – and a new one that’s caught on in recent years: naked running. Yes, you can run through the streets of two different towns at 3 a.m. au naturel.

Happy Solstice!

Dani Harper
http://www.daniharper.com/

Your turn – Do you observe the Solstice? Does your family have any traditions, new or old, associated with the solstice? (One of my friends goes camping with her kids and eats s’mores all night.)

Are There Apes in America?

There are many stories of a large primate living in the coastal rainforests of the Pacific Northwest. But did you know that there are countless sightings and stories of the Sasquatch (also known as Bigfoot) in every state of the US except Hawaii?

A Sampling of Sasquatch

Arkansas has had many reports of giant ape-like creatures dating back to 1955. The one that first made the news was in the town of Fouke in 1971, when a couple was terrorized at their home by what they initially thought was a bear. The wife saw the arm of the creature reaching in through the screen of a window. Later, the husband was seized while on the porch and thrown to the ground. Another incident involving a bigfoot-like creature frightened residents of a trailer park in Springdale. It apparently hammered dents in the sides of mobile homes and dug up vegetable gardens. Reports streamed in for the next few months, then subsided. The creature was dubbed the Fouke Monster, the Arkansas Ape-man, or the Boggy Creek Monster (after the 1973 movie that was made about it). Then the sightings began again in the region in 1978, recurring in 1991, 1997 and 1998. In 2003, police received calls of a large ape in the Decateur area, although reports of the beast’s size varied greatly. The Texarkana Gazette ran an article in 2001 detailing the 1971 incident, “The Fouke Monster 30 Years Later” (http://www.bfro.net/GDB/show_article.asp?id=259)

The forested swamps of Southern Georgia and Florida are home to what the locals call the Skunk Ape or Stink Ape. It gets its name from its distinctive and powerful rotten egg smell. The creature is reportedly similar to Bigfoot and appearance but leaner and slightly smaller – only about 6 ½ to 7 feet tall. Sightings date back hundreds of years and the Native Americans of the area have their own names for the animal. The Valdosta Daily Times ran an excellent article on it in April of this year, “Planet of the Skunk Apes” ( http://valdostadailytimes.com/local/x1612554511/Planet-of-the-Skunk-Apes

Texas is often thought to be an arid place, no doubt due to many old western movies that portrayed it that way. However, a large part of the state is heavily forested and there have been many reports of sasquatch. In 2002, residents of Sabine reported a gray ape-like creature in the woods. In 2008, a truck driver saw a light-colored sasquatch cross the highway in front of him. What impressed him the most was its sheer size -- and when something looks big from the seat of an 18-wheeler, it's really big. For a complete collection of credible incidents, check out the website of the Texas Bigfoot Research Conservancy ( http://www.texasbigfoot.org/ )

Alaska is the biggest state of all and it has its share of bigfoot stories, some dating back hundreds of years. In the Great State, the creature is often called the Hairy Man, the Uraluyi or Nantiinaq. In the 1950s, the entire village of Port Chatham was abandoned due to the malicious presence of a Nantiinaq! The Homer Tribune recorded the memories of one woman from that village. (http://homertribune.com/2009/10/port-chatham-left-to-spirits/ )

Color by Area?

In the majority of reports, the ape creature’s coloration varies from light brown to reddish brown to almost black. But there are accounts of unusual colors, and researchers say the color appears to be regional, meaning light or white colored bigfoot are more likely to be sighted in the eastern or southern areas of the US. In Alabama, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Missouri, New York State and Washington State, sasquatch with gray-white, cream and off-white fur have been reported. On the west coast, a few have very dark hair that is silver-tipped. Some researchers feel that coat color changes with age, just as it does in humans.

Occasionally some sasquatch sport distinctive markings, such as Old Yellow Top in Ontario, Canada. This brown bigfoot had a thatch of blonde hair on its head – perhaps an old wound caused the hair to grow in differently than the rest, or perhaps it was a natural variation. Whatever the reason for the color, sightings of Old Yellow Top date back to about 1906 and the last reports were in the 1970s, which seems to suggest it could easily be the same individual.

Is There A Bigfoot Hiding in YOUR Woods?

In any conversation about the Sasquatch, the number one question is always How could such a large animal remain hidden for so long? In answer, consider the gorilla, which remained a character in rumors and stories until the discovery of some bones in 1847. The first sighting of a live lowland gorilla by a Westerner didn’t occur until 1856. It was 1902 before the mountain gorilla was discovered. Now consider that in 2008 – just two years ago – a population of 125,000 (yes, that’s 125 THOUSAND) western lowland gorillas was discovered living in the forests of the Republic of Congo. This country’s land mass is one-quarter the size of the US. (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/26016923/ ) If researchers and biologists can miss that many gorillas, it stands to reason that a few sasquatch should have no trouble eluding them.

Dani Harper
http://www.daniharper.com/

Your turn – Any Bigfoot stories in your area? Do you think it’s possible that they exist? (Be sure and vote in my poll in the dark gray column on the right of this blog.)

Lake Monsters – Beyond Loch Ness

Nessie’s not alone. A dedicated search for lake monster legends turns up three others in the British Isles. But did you know that there are no less than 16 mysterious water creatures living in Canada and 22 in the USA?

Ogopogo is the most famous fresh water monster in Canada, alleged to live in Lake Okanagan, British Columbia. First Nations peoples told stories about the “water demon” or “snake in the lake” long before European settlers arrived, and some native petroglyphs have been found that are said to depict the beast. Tradition holds that they didn’t cross this particular lake without bringing along small animals to drop in as offerings.

The first European sighting of Ogopogo was in 1860 (which predates Loch Ness sightings by 60 years!). A man in a canoe was swimming a team of horses across the lake when, without warning, the horses were dragged under by forces unseen. He was forced to cut the lead rope to save the canoe from being pulled under as well, and narrowly escaped. The horses disappeared without a trace. Sightings have occurred about six times a year on average ever since, several by large groups of people at the same time, and sometimes the creature has even been spotted on land! Witness accounts vary somewhat but most tell of a scaly serpentine creature from 12 to 70 feet long, glossy black or brown, that undulates through the water. It isn’t clear if the creature actually has a number of humps or if it just looks like that because of its method of locomotion. The Ogopogo is described as having a rounded or horse-like head on a long neck, and the creature has appeared not only singly but in groups of up to three.

With no less than several thousand credible accounts of its existence, it’s no wonder that the government of British Columbia gave the Ogopogo protected wildlife status in 1989. It is illegal to harm, kill, capture or disturb the creature in any way. Whatever it is.

Meanwhile, creatures of similar description are reported to inhabit other deep, cold Canadian lakes – such as Turtle Lake in Saskatchewan, Lake Manitoba and Lake Winnipegosis in Manitoba, Lake Cameron in British Columbia, and Lake Simcoe in Ontario, to name only a few.

One of the most studied monsters is reputed to live in a lake divided by the USA-Canada border – Lake Memphremagog, which is partly in Vermont and partly in Quebec. The creature is nicknamed Memphre, and reports of its appearance date back about 200 years. Early settlers to the area were warned by the local Native Americans not to swim in the lake because of the monster. Witnesses describe an animal very similar in size and shape to Ogopogo – serpentine, about 15 to 45 feet long, black or dark gray. Frequent sightings have continued to the present day, including (also like Ogopogo) appearances to large groups of people.

By the way, the study of lake monsters has been dubbed dracontology. Originally coined for the study of dragons, it was borrowed by cryptozoologist Jacques Boisvert in 1980. Boisvert was responsible for a great deal of the research done on the “Memphre” monster, having logged nearly 5,000 dives in Lake Memphremagog.

While some lake monsters may indeed be cryptids – creatures not yet discovered by science – not all freshwater monsters are new animals. Crescent Lake, Newfoundland, apparently harbors gigantic eels, while Lake Temiskaming in Ontario is home to what may be sturgeon of epic proportions. And in recent years, monsters lurking in the St. Laurence seaway near Quebec were shown to be Greenland or sleeper sharks, creatures able to exceed great white sharks in size. These big cold-water sharks have been witnessed eating caribou after lying in wait, crocodile-style, at the mouths of Canada’s northern rivers. Stomach contents of some of these sharks revealed not just caribou but pieces of seals, horses and even polar bears! *

Which just proves that sometimes truth can be far stranger than legend.

Dani Harper
http://www.daniharper.com/  
(Facebook and Twitter links are on my website)

Your turn – do you think there could be undiscovered creatures living in some of our lakes? Have you ever seen one or met someone who has? What do you think you would do if you happened to spot Ogopogo or Memphre? Would it change your view of the world?

* Go to http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/1057583266342_45///?hub=SciTech and http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/nature/clash-of-the-fiercest-predators-as-shark-eats-polar-bear-891512.html and http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/discoblog/2008/05/06/freakish-caribou-eating-creature-haunts-the-arctic-deep/ to read more about those strange Greenland sharks.

Are Aliens Like Us?

In April, Dr. Stephen Hawking said that, mathematically speaking, it’s unlikely that Earth is the only place in the universe that life exists.

Most scientists, including Hawking, think that the majority of life “out there” is likely to be microbes or simple animals. And these animals wouldn’t necessarily resemble anything we’d recognize. However, scientists also agree that the potential for intelligent extra-terrestrials exists. As Hawking said, “The real challenge is working out what aliens might actually be like."

While he’s figuring that out, some people believe they’ve already met E.T. right here on Earth. In fact, some ufologists – UFO researchers – claim to have identified several specific types of interplanetary visitors!

GRAYS – The most common type of extra-terrestrial reported, these are named for their skin tone which is said to vary from gray-white to gray-green. Most are short, only about 3 to 4 feet tall, very thin and have enlarged heads with enormous black eyes. Nose, mouth and ears are very small. The Grays are the aliens most commonly associated with claims of abduction. The shorter Grays appear to be workers, while their apparent leaders are taller, with larger eyes and heads.

HUMANOIDS – Several types of humanoid extra-terrestrials have been reported, but the Nordics appear to be the most numerous. These aliens are said to closely resemble humans, enough to pass for them on the street. Eyes are human-like but very large and slightly slanted. Both male and female are said to be at least 5’8” tall. Their skin is pale and without sweat glands, and their hair is blonde or white. The highest number of reports of encounters with Nordics comes from the United Kingdom, but some encounters are reported in the desert areas of the United States. Most believers claim that the Nordics are benevolent and are on Earth to observe but not interfere. The Nordics are also said to have some conflict with the Grays.

REPTILIAN – These aliens are said to have crocodilian skin that is usually greenish-brown or coffee colored. Scales cover their entire bodies, with smaller scales on the hands and feet. They have three long fingers and an opposable thumb on each hand. Nostrils are slit-like openings that slant upward in a V-shape. Mouths are lipless with an assortment of teeth including fangs, and eyes are reptile-like with vertical pupils. The Grays are said to be subservient to the Reptilians. Most reptilian alien encounters appear to be reported out of India and Asia. By the way, reptilian E.Ts are said to be hostile to humans.

Accounts of several other types of alien visitors have been given over the years, but the above three seem to be the most common.

Sadly, the Governor of Kalmykia, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, doesn’t appear to have revealed which type of alien abducted him from his Moscow apartment back in 1997. In early May of 2010, the Moscow Times reported that the 48-year-old Ilyumzhinov told a television host that he spent several hours with the extra-terrestrials aboard their ship. He also claims to have three witnesses to the event – his driver, minister and assistant – who were in his apartment at the time.

Some officials in the Russian government aren’t writing this off as an eccentric tale either. Concerned that the governor – who is also president of the World Chess Federation – might have shared classified information with interplanetary beings, they’ve formally asked President Dmitry Medvedev to interrogate him.

Maybe he’ll ask if the governor’s abductors were Grays or Nordics?

Dani Harper
http://www.daniharper.com/


Your turn – if alien life exists, what do you think it might be like? Do you think E.T. could be already here?