How to Ensure your New Year is Happy

Most of the traditions connected with New Year's Eve and New Year's Day could be summed up in a single sentence: “What you do is what you'll get”. In many cultures, what you do for the first hour of the New Year signifies what you’ll do the most of for the next twelve months! (Does sleeping count?) Here are fifteen of the most common superstitions.

1. Working hard on New Year’s Day will ensure a whole year of grueling labor! But if you do a small token task successfully – something related to your employment – this will set the tone for achievement. (I'm definitely planning to write something!)

2. If the house is clean by midnight on Dec. 31st, it’ll be clean for the entire next year. (Do I have to sort the closets too?) Don't sweep on New Year's Day or you'll sweep out all your good luck! Don't do dishes or laundry either or you'll "wash away" a member of your family in the coming year.

3. If all your pockets and purses and wallets have coins and dollars in them by midnight, you’ll have plenty of money in the new year. Holding a piece of gold or silver in your hand at the stroke of midnight will also bring prosperity. Some people place coins on windowsills and the tops of doors too.

4. If you wear new clothes on New Year’s Day, more new clothes will come your way. (Does that include purses and shoes?)

5. No crying, fighting, arguing, name-calling or general negativity on New Year’s Day or you’ll have strife and tears all year long.

6. Don’t let valuable things leave your house on New Year’s Day or luck and fortune will go with them. The general belief refers to things like money and jewelry, but some people believe that nothing – not even garbage! – should leave the house on New Year’s Day. Take the empties to the recycling bin some other time!

7. Make sure the cupboards and pantries are full on New Year’s Day, in order to ensure abundance the rest of the year.

8. In many countries, it's believed that all debts should be settled before the New Year. Don’t pay back loans or lend money on New Year’s Day however, or you’ll be paying out all year long!

9. Be careful with the dishes. If anything breaks on New Year’s Day, ill luck will follow. And if you break a mirror, the bad luck will be doubled. None of this applies, however, if you're Danish. They save up dishes all year to throw at the doors of their friends and neighbors. At the end of New Year's Day, the higher the pile of broken crockery on your front step, the more loyal friends you have.

10. Working on New Year’s Day will ensure a year filled with grueling labor. But if you do a small token task – something related to your employment – successfully, it’ll set the tone for achievement in the coming months.

11. Kissing at least one person at midnight ensures that love, friendship and affection will continue. To not give out a kiss indicates a long, cold and lonely year. (That’s dire – I’d kiss both my pugs to avoid a fate like that!). Kissing your spouse or your fiance is even better, ensuring that you'll live in love and happiness during the entire year to come.

12. When midnight approaches, open all the windows and doors to let the Old Year leave. In some traditions, just opening one window or door will work. Releasing the Old Year makes room for the New Year. In Puerto Rico, people toss buckets of water out the windows to help to clean out the old year.

13. Bad luck and evil spirits must be driven away in order to make room for good fortune. This belief is at the root of using noisemakers to welcome in the New Year. The more noise you can make, the better. In early pioneer America. the firing of guns into the air was practiced. Church bells are often rung at midnight in many countries for the same reason.

In Iran, pots and pans are banged together. And the Chinese can be thanked for introducing fireworks to New Year's celebrations to chase away demons and bad fortune. In Wales, singing door to door does the job. My favorite is an Irish tradition which calls for banging on the walls and doors with Christmas bread to frighten evil spirits and invite good ones into the house. (Finally - a good use for that fruitcake!)

14. What you eat is said to influence your fortune for the coming year. It's lucky to eat black-eyed peas, and some say that one pea equals a coin you'll receive. Lentils will work too. But eating cabbage or other leafy greens might be more efficient – they're said to represent bills! Round foods are often synonymous with prosperity. In Spain and Portugal, they eat 12 grapes as the clock chimes midnight, ensuring 12 good months to come. Foods that form a circle or a ring, such as doughnuts, are popular in Europe. (Homer Simpson would like this one) The shape signifies that the year has come full circle and is now complete.

15. In keeping with the "getting rid of the old to make way for the new", residents of Ecuador burn pictures of things they don't want. Each family also creates a scarecrow or puppet which is called the "Año Viejo" or Old Year. Lists of problems and worries might be stuffed inside the effigies, as well as newspaper, wood and sawdust. Setting fire to these effigies is said to destroy any bad things that may have happened over the twelve months. Jumping over the fire brings extra luck. Versions of this practice can be found in other cultures as well. Burning the old calendar is popular almost everywhere.

Wishing all of my readers a happy, healthy and profitable New Year!

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

Your turn - What traditions did you grow up with? Have you heard of any that aren't listed here?

Creepy Christmas Superstitions

Last week's Christmas Superstitions included The Good, the Bad and the Scary. This week’s installment brings you some traditions that are downright creepy! They may not be true, but there's bound to be at least a couple that will give you a chill just the same.

Dogs that howl on Christmas Eve will go mad before the end of the year. A candle or a lamp should be kept burning all night on Christmas Eve to avoid a death in the house in the following year.

Instead of water turning into wine at midnight on Christmas Eve, some hold the belief that the water in streams and wells turns into blood! Not only that, if you witness this change, you’ll die within the year!

A Scandinavian belief maintains that it's dangerous to go out on Christmas Eve because of the many supernatural beings that come out of their hiding places that night. Trolls, witches, goblins and ghosts are said to roam freely, including the spirits of the dead revisiting their previous homes. Gifts must be left outside – bowls of pudding and cream, clothes, tobacco and even ale – in order to appease some of these creatures. The most perilous time occurs between cock’s crow and dawn, when supernatural beings are at the peak of their power. To go outside means risking death or being carried off by them, never to be seen again.

Swedish folklore puts a chilling twist on this story. On Christmas Eve, they prepare their dining room with food and ale and blazing fire – and leave it overnight to enable the spirits of the dead to celebrate undisturbed. The family checks the chairs in the morning for traces of earth, proof that the dead have come calling!

Icelandic children lived in fear of being eaten by bloodthirsty ogres living in the mountains. The most ferocious of these was Mother Grýla, who wandered through the village at Christmastime with her evil cat.

Instead of leaving out cookies for Santa, gifts and food had to be left out to appease the ogres. If they didn't like the offerings, they'd eat you. And if you didn't have at least one brand new article of clothing in honor of the season – the cat would eat you!

A once popular parlor game gave everyone an apple after dinner, which was then cut in half across the middle to reveal the pattern of the core. If the core is star-shaped (most apples have this), the owner of the apple will see another Christmas. If the core is a different shape, the owner’s death will occur in the next twelve months! The appearance of a four-pointed cross was worst of all – although what was worse than death is never mentioned.

Parlor games in Victorian England also included telling ghost stories by the fire, while keeping tabs on everyone’s shadow throughout the evening. If anyone’s shadow were to appear headless, that person would die within the coming year.

While most cultures consider it lucky to be born on Christmas, others definitely do not. In Greece, any child born during the 12 days of Christmas is in danger of morphing into a kallikantzaroi, a malevolent half-animal, half-human monster that lives underground most of the year. Such a creature will almost certainly devour his own brothers and sisters!

In Romania, Poland and Moldova, a child born on Christmas Day may become a werewolf. A different variation on this tale is that any child conceived during Advent (when parents apparently were supposed to abstain from such activities) was almost certainly doomed to become a were-animal by the time they reached adulthood. In some Slavic regions, a child be born anywhere between Christmas and Ephiphany will surely become a vampire after death.

To avoid bad luck, all Christmas decorations should be taken down by Candlemas (Feb. 2). However, make sure you clean up after them – every needle left behind in the house from the Christmas tree will cause the sighting of a spirit or a demon in the coming year. Some believe a stray needle or berry will result in a death in the family. (A good case for having an artificial tree!)

The danger isn't over once the decorations are down because a Christmas tree thrown outside will attract the attention of evil spirits and supernatural beings. For proper disposal, the tree must be burned immediately.

An old Breton tale tells the story of a blacksmith who refused to stop working after the church bell had rung for Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. Suddenly a tall man entered his shop with a scythe that needed mending.

The blacksmith did the work but the mysterious man refused to pay him. Instead, he told the blacksmith to send for a priest because this work would be the last he would ever do. By the time the roosters crowed on Christmas morning, the blacksmith was dead. He had mended the Scythe of the Grim Reaper himself.

Wishing you a merry-not-too-scary holiday season!

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

Your turn -- have you heard of any other superstitions concerning Christmas?

The Longest Night - Winter Solstice

Stonehenge at daybreak on the solstice.
The Winter Solstice is probably the most celebrated annual event worldwide, both now and in the past. Our ancestors rejoiced in the return of the sun, seeing it as a rebirth of life as well as light. Many ancient cultures created incredible structures to align with the sun during solstices. One of the most famous examples of this is Stonehenge, but it’s just one of hundreds of megalithic sites across Europe designed to mark these important days in the astronomical calendar. Ancient inhabitants of the New World, such as the Incas, built similar structures.

Winter Solstice, usually called Yule, falls on December 21 in 2011, and it marks the shortest day and longest night of the year. For those of us who struggle with the annual darkness, it draws the line between one half of the year and the other. After this day, the days will lengthen once more and light will increase.

The holiday now known as Christmas has its origins in many long ago Yule celebrations.

The Yule Log

Yule logs and fireplaces were once
a LOT bigger
Medieval tradition tells of an enormous log – commonly ash or oak – placed in the fireplace on the solstice. It was decorated with evergreens and kindled with the carefully saved remains of last year’s Yule log. The wood would burn all night, then be allowed to smolder for the following 12 days. Pouring ale or wine on the log was customary. So was sprinkling flour or breadcrumbs on it, or even placing coins on the log. All were said to bring good fortune, and the blackened coins were later given as gifts.

Remnants of the Yule log were said to have protective properties and were kept in the house to guard against lightning and hail, and against various diseases. Ashes of the log were mixed with cattle and poultry fodder to ensure that the livestock thrived in the coming year.

Later, as large fireplaces fell out of fashion, small logs were decorated in a similar way and holes were bored into the wood to hold candles, which would be burned for 12 nights. The French were the first to create an edible Yule log, and Victorian confectioners made these Yule cakes famous.

The Yule Tree

Celtic customs are said to have called for the decorating of sacred oak trees. The Celts and many other peoples also held evergreens to be symbolic of immortality, of continuing life in the midst of death. In the coldest, darkest and dreariest of winters, evergreens held forth hope of returning spring. Throughout many cultures and over countless centuries, homes have been decorated with evergreen boughs and other winter greenery.

The practice of decorating trees dates back to before Roman times. The trees were not cut down and brought into the house, however, but left alive and decorated wherever they grew with trinkets, trophies, sacred plants such as holly and mistletoes, bits of metal and sometimes replicas of gods.

The Yuletide Wreath

Wreaths have symbolized the wheel of the year since ancient times, and the word wreath comes from the Old English writhen, meaning "to twist". In many European countries, evergreen wreaths were lit with candles during the darkest winter days, symbolizing hope that light would return. Candles were sometimes placed around a wheel, to ensure that the year would cycle around so that the days would lengthen and warmth return. Holly wreaths were said to ward off the evil spirits that abounded during the darkness of midwinter, and holly might be kept near the door all year long to invite good fortune.

The Yule Goat

Giant straw goats decorate
town squares while tiny ones
decorate Yule trees
The Yule Goat or Julbock was central to solstice traditions in Scandinavia and northern Europe. A human dressed in goatskins and wearing long horns acted out a skit in which he “died” and returned to life. This was symbolic of the sun’s resurrection at solstice. (The goat guise was chosen because the Norse thunder god Thor had two goats which drew his chariot across the sky. He would occasionally kill the goats and use them to feed guests, then would restore them to life with a blow of his magical hammer.)

Goats were originally slaughtered as offerings during Yule, but later, goats made of straw were created annually as both decorations and effigies. This webcam site shows the current giant straw goat in Gävle, Sweden. The reason for the webcam is that the straw goat doesn't usually last the season -- it's a tradition for it to be burnt to the ground in the middle of the night!


http://www.camcentral.com/camviewer.php?id=16960&script=listings&task=map&item=location&show=Sweden


Other Winter Solstice traditions

Many people celebrate by staying awake throughout the night of the solstice so they can watch the sunrise the following day. Others wake early to observe the daybreak and dawn of a new cycle. Bonfires are usually lit to simulate the ascent of the sun and sometimes herbs such as sage are thrown into the blaze. Candles are allowed to burn throughout the day. Gifts are often exchanged as part of the midwinter celebrations, and stories told of ghosts and fairies.

Songs are sung, especially carols such as Deck the Halls which mention Yule specifically. Toasts are made and, in some places, groups dress up in costumes and go “wassailing”, which is very much like caroling. “Wassail” comes from an Anglo-Saxon toast for “Be Well” or “Be Healthy”. In modern times, the revelers go door to door, carrying “Wassail cups” that will hopefully be filled at each house.

Wassail was usually
hot spiced cider, alcohol optional.
 In ancient times, wassailing was done around the oldest tree in an apple orchard. Cider was poured on the roots and toast dipped in cider was hung on the branches to thank the tree dryads and ensure a good crop in the coming year. The carolers sang and drummed to drive away bad spirits, and the wassail cup was passed from person to person. Each took a drink and passed on the cup with a kiss and a blessing.

One of the most unique solstice traditions is the lighting of the White Horse on the hillside at Alton Barnes in England. The mammoth chalk figure is outlined by candles placed in glass jars on the day of the winter solstice. When night falls, only the glowing outline of the horse is visible. Here’s a video on YouTube of last year’s lighting (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OWwIZG6WJLs ).

The Reason for the Season

Winter solstice is often called Yule, probably from an old Nordic word for wheel. With the coming of Yule, the wheel of the year has rolled around to its beginning once more. The word solstice comes from Latin for “stoppage”. The sun is at its lowest point in the sky and its elevation at noon appears to be the same for several days before and after solstice.

The Celts believed that the "wheel of the year" paused briefly on this day as the sun itself appears to stop. Accordingly, they wouldn’t turn a wheel of any kind on this day, not even a butter churn. A time of stillness was prized as an opportunity to reflect on the past year and look forward to the new one.

This concept of reflection is still at the very heart of all midwinter celebrations. It’s a time to meditate on the sorrows of the past year as well as the positive moments and achievements. It offers a chance to bond with family and friends, and to look forward with hope.

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

Your turn – Do you celebrate the winter solstice or Yule? What are some of the other traditions you know of?  If you're interested in reading more about Winter Solstice traditions, try The Winter Solstice: The Sacred Traditions of Christmas for adults and The Shortest Day: Celebrating the Winter Solstice for the young at heart.

Christmas Superstitions - Part One

Tis the season to dust off favorite blogs of Christmases past. For anyone who might have caught this one already, hope you enjoy it a second time!

As you know, I just can’t resist anything related to the paranormal. But Christmas? Who would have suspected that there was anything supernatural about such a warm fuzzy holiday? I mean, a big jolly fellow travels all over the world with his flying reindeer in a single night, squeezes down tiny chimneys with a neverending bag of presents, knows if you’re naughty or nice but is never seen himself… Come to think of it, that IS pretty paranormal!


I had a lot of fun researching Christmas superstitions and I was amazed by how MANY there were! In fact, there’s so much material I’ve decided to blog twice about this topic. Here then is the first installment. (By the way, here's the official disclaimer -- Remember, these are folktales and traditions, and not intended to be taken as truth!)

The Good….

Unmarried girls can cut a twig from a cherry tree on St. Barbora’s Day (Dec. 4th) and put it in water. If it blooms by Christmas Eve, marriage will follow within the year. Counting the stars on Christmas Eve will foretell the number of sheaves in your harvest. And if you see the sun shining through the limbs of the apple trees on Christmas Day, there’ll be an abundance of fruit the following year.

If you dream on any of the 12 nights between Christmas and Epiphany (Jan. 6), your dreams will come true in the next year. The first person in the household to hear a rooster crow or anyone who hears a cricket chirp on Christmas Day is going to have a very lucky year. Good luck follows those who give money to the poor on Christmas Day, to those who eat their breakfast by candlelight, and to those who stir the Christmas pudding.

The Bad….

Bad, bad fortune follows those who leave the dishes unwashed on Christmas Eve (and that’s on top of what Mom will do to you!). On Christmas Day, it’s unlucky to leave the dinner table before everyone has finished. A full moon on Christmas predicts a scanty harvest in the year to come. If Christmas Day falls on a Thursday, a year of windy weather is forecast.

On Christmas Eve it’s said that you can hear the bells of lost churches that have been covered by floods or buried by landslides and earthquakes. Picking up nuts or fruit from the ground will bring bad luck. So will sending carolers away without treats or money. And you really don’t want to be the first one home from church!

And the Scary….

A piece of winter greenery (holly, mistletoe, evergreen, etc.) must be brought into your home during the Christmas season, to keep away evil spirits. However, every winter leaf left in the house after Candlemas (Feb. 2) will result in the sighting of a ghost, or perhaps even a death in the house during the coming year! Mistletoe must be burned, or those who kissed beneath it will become enemies.

Those born on Christmas Day are rumored to be able to see ghosts and spirits. And those who are born on Christmas Eve are said to turn into ghosts themselves on that day every year! (Wow, this sounds more like Halloween, doesn’t it?) The only way to avoid this odd fate is to remain awake the entire night until Christmas Day dawns.

That's all for this post. Watch for more on Christmas superstitions!

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

YOUR TURN! What Christmas superstitions or folklore have you heard of over the years?

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?

CHANGELING MOON - upcoming shapeshifter novel

Just got the cover art for the first book in my upcoming shapeshifter series with Kensington. This story is classed as paranormal romance, but you'll find plenty of action and suspense in it. I'm really excited and looking forward to the release in May. It's soooo hard to wait, so I thought I'd share a preview with everyone!

BOOK ONE
Changeling Moon
by Dani Harper

He roams the moonlit wilderness, his every sense and instinct on high alert. Changeling wolf Connor Macleod and his Pack have never feared anything — until the night human Zoey Tyler barely escapes a rogue werewolf’s vicious attack.

As the full moon approaches, Zoey has no idea of the changes that are coming, and only Connor can show her what she is, and help her master the wildness inside. With her initiation into the Pack just days away and a terrifying predator on the loose, the tentative bonds of trust and tenderness are their only weapons against a force red in tooth, claw … and ultimate evil.

ADVANCE REVIEW

"Dani Harper’s CHANGELING MOON is one of those rare stories that literally catches you with the first paragraph and never lets go.

“Powerful characters, fantastic action and a really unique premise set this story apart from every other shapeshifter story I’ve read. Her Changeling world is unique and well-drawn and the pacing will keep readers turning those pages to see what’s coming next.

"A strong heroine with a mind of her own, a compassionate yet powerful hero, hot sex, hotter action, and a story that won’t turn you loose. It just doesn’t get any better than CHANGELING MOON. I highly recommend this one.

“Make room on the keeper shelf — Dani Harper is definitely an author to watch."

~ Kate Douglas ~ Author of the DemonSlayer and Wolf Tales series


ABOUT THE SERIES

There are three books in the series at present. Changeling Moon will be released on May 31, 2011, followed by Changeling Dream on June 28. Changeling Dawn is slated for release in January of 2012. All are coming out in Kensington's Brava line.

PS -  Changeling Moon can already be pre-ordered on Amazon!


Dani Harper
www.daniharper.com
Your turn - What do you think of the artwork? Would it inspire you to take a look at the book? What about the premise of the story? Are you a fan of paranormal romance?

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)
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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?