Past, Darkly: The Backstory

What if you blended history with fairy tales and dreams?


With that thought, I began working on a series called The Dreams. For over a year, I’ve been researching the Battle of Chickamauga in north Georgia. (Those who study the US Civil War will understand how complex and brutal the battle was.) From there, I began looking into the universal appeal of fairy tales and folklore, and what makes the stories so topical in our contemporary society. They tap into our collective consciousness and their appeal is timeless. While studying, I discovered that many cultures share similar tales, sagas and fables. And, I’ve been a student of dreams and the subconscious for a lifetime, so it was easy to develop a plotline where symbols, imagery and a vivid dream world merge.

swirlMost of us have had at least one incident where we have shared a dream with someone close to us. In The Dreams, rock star James van Lee (stage name Jago) shares a dream world with Dr. Maggie Pickett, a professor on folklore at Emory University. In Story 1, Lovers & Sinners, the separate worlds of James and Maggie were introduced. James is charismatic and his abusive past lead him to seek adoration from the stage. Along the way he meets his best friend and mentor who, along with his band, TASTE, become the family he has always yearned for.

Maggie is from a small Southern town and has loved Rhett Turnquest her entire life. But, Rhett is drawn to the seductive allure  of Maggie’s best friend, Annie Bragg. The three move to Atlanta–Maggie and Rhett pursue their education, while Annie changes her name to Natasha and seeks fame as a rock singer.

Vicswirl1Past, Darkly begins in Chickamauga during the Reconstruction Era which followed the Civil War. The Chattanooga area has a different history than most Southern cities in that the town grew from a tiny population to over 8,ooo people following the war, the majority of whom where Northerners. In the generation before the war, the Chattanooga and Chickamaua areas were part of the Cherokee Nation. With the influx of industrialists and entrepreneurs, medicine shows were popular in the area, as Chattanooga had been a medical hub in the Civil War. The shows were the only way to sell medicine in a time where only a few men came back from the war intact – both physically and mentally. Plus they gave a rural population some much needed entertainment in the era before vaudeville and radio. In this era, James is the medicine man in a traveling show and finds Maggie abandoned in a field. The subplot develops from there. Here’s a list of the characters in 1873 and 2016:



James van Lee, real name of traveling medicine man Dr. Garrett Cleighton

Maggie Pickett, lost waif found by James in Chickamauga, Georgia            

Rhett Turnquest, performer in the traveling show, spice trader and notorious womanizer.

Natasha, Rhett’s favorite prostitute during the Civil War, now a dancer in ‘Dr. Cleighton’s show.

Frank Vletzen, primary investor in Cleighton’s Original Kaleidoscopic Elixir and the traveling show which sells it.

Sugar, widow with a small farm who sells herbs to the show in order to make the elixir.

Charlotte, the French wife of the owner of the Stanton Hotel in Chattanooga.

Moz, bearded lady in the traveling show.



James van Lee, rock star known as  Jago

Dr. Maggie Pickett, Emory University professor      

Rhett Turnquest, med student and lifelong love of Maggie.

Natasha, rock wannabe and lifelong seductress of Rhett. Maggie’s best childhood friend.

Frank Vletzen, James best friend and mentor.

Sugar, Frank’s protegy and European actress; ménage partner of Frank and James.

Aunt Charlotte, the fairy godmother and Maggie’s aunt.

Moz Art, guitarist in James’ band, TASTE.

swirlThe contemporary story finds James and Maggie meeting at an encounter unknowingly arranged by Rhett and Natasha. You’ll have to read it to see how the fairy tale evolves. I’ve drawn heavily from the Russian story of The Firebird , The Ice Queen, and the French version of Sleeping Beauty, along with some Russian history and even connected it with Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII. The book includes exclusive photographs shared with the permission of the Library of Congress. And, there is a special picture from the first school in the US to be co-ed and open to all races and ethnic backgrounds. That school was in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Thank you in advance for reading my book. As you can probably surmise, this story is truly a labor of love; to me a magical combination of historical facts, rock & roll, and make believe. Many thanks for allowing me to share my creative process with you!

Where do dreams end and reality begin?

Look for an upcoming dream journal to accompany the series, which will be available soon. I’ve worked extensively in developing that with Dr. Beth Lynne, Ed.D, and a Jungian dream analyst to allow those who dream to better understand the symbols and motifs hidden within behind a wall of sleep.


Pre-order now for only 99c/99p!


Where do dreams end and reality begin?

Sexy rock star James van Lee and Dr. Maggie Pickett meet in Atlanta, at an encounter unknowingly arranged by Rhett Turnquest and Natasha. This complex story continues, taking it’s intriguing cast of characters from the Reconstruction South of 1873 into contemporary 2016. Past, Darkly blends historical fantasy, fairytales, and a dash of Victoriana into a enchanting read. This version includes Story 1 & 2 in The Dreams Series.
Please note: The story from 1873 is written in a southern US dialect used in the late 1800s. For historical accuracy, this book includes exclusive photographs and maps shared by permission of the Library of Congress.

Editorial Reviews:

  • If you are looking for a steamy Victorian Romance with a hot, contemporary vibe of adventure and suspense, then this is the book for you.” Jennifer Theriot, USA Today Best Selling Author.
  • “As magical and sexy as Outlander or Human Croquet.” C.P. Mandara, USA Today Best Selling Author.

Looking Back: A History of Lipstick

looking-back-lipsCosmetic products have captivated the human race since ancient times.  Yet there has been one item that has never gone out of style, or lost its popularity. No matter how large fashion changes  or extreme swings occurred over the last thousands of years, a few essentials manage to remain in widespread usage. Soap, shampoos, kohl eye liners, nail polishes, and forms of facial make up paints have survived the rise and falls of civilizations. But one stands above the others, often being in vogue with members of both genders, and that most iconic of cosmetic products is lipstick.

There isn’t any exact way to determine who first discovered a need for lipstick, or whether it was in the form of a balm for protection from the sun, or used in religious rituals, or if it was simply used to attract members of the opposite sex. Archaeological digs and the relics found show that humans have employed a form of lipstick throughout history. It has been with us since the dawn of time, when women and men used various fruit and plants to mark their faces in religious ceremonies. The Grolier Codex of ancient America shows two Mayan woman wearing lipstick. Although we don’t know much about the Mayans, As ancient civilizations developed in the Mesopotamian region, the first manmade lipstick appeared as a cosmetic tool for the wealthy women and men living in the areas of ancient Mesopotamia, Indus Valley Region and Egypt.

Ancient Sumerian men and women crushed gemstones and used them to decorate their faces, mainly on the lips and eyes. Were they possibly the first to invent and wear lipstick, about 5,000 years ago, for fashionable reasons? The ancient Indus Valley Civilization applied red tinted lipstick to their lips for face decoration. Ancient Egyptians wore lipstick to show social status rather than gender. They extracted a red dye from seaweed, iodine, and salt, know known to be bromine mannite, but this dye resulted in serious illness. Lipsticks with shimmering effects were made using a pearlescent substance found in fish scales. Finally, Egyptians crushed bugs to create a red color on their lips.

The Egyptians managed to advance the art of lipstick making by producing bright red carmine lipstick made from insect pigments. This timeless technique is still in use. Lipsticks were eventually made from powdered and processed bodies of insects or seaweed extracts, mixed with various oils and waxes. cleo

History and cinema will forever immortalize the beauty of Cleopatra derived through the figures that were depicted in hieroglyphic images or in myths left to us of her cosmetic enhancements through her seductive bright red lipstick.

From Dawn (of time) to Dark Ages

2500 BC to 1000 BC – Ancient Mesopotamia was a home of first lipstick known to mankind. Women used crushed gemstones to decorate their lips.

2000 BC – Indus Valley Civilization used dyes to color their faces and lips. The products often contained harmful ingredients that caused serious illness.

2000 BC to 100 AD – Egyptians used lipstick that was made from crushed carmine beetles. This popular red lipstick, sometimes decorated with a pearlescent affect, which was extracted from fish scales. This was used only by the wealthy and powerful, most notably by the legendary Cleopatra.

8th – 12th AD – One of the most important moments in the history of lipstick occured during the Islamic Golden Age when famous cosmetologist and chemist Abu al-Qasim al-Zahrawi (936–1013) invented solid lipstick that was based perfume sticks rolled in special molds. These are the basis for all modern lipsticks.

Europe in the Middle Ages – Until the late 16th century, lip coloring was banned by the Christian church. They believed that lip coloring was connected with Satanic rituals and cult worship. Thus, lipstick was only used by the lowest classes of the time period, those being prostitutes and actors.

Gloriana to Cinema

The history of lipstick tells of the European Middle Ages almost removing lipstick from fashion forever. Harsh living conditions, constant wars, plagues, lack of food and other factions led to years where very little or no advancements in cosmetics. With the church maintaining fashion and common laws, they actively discouraged lipstick usage or facial coloring of any type.

Times evolved, and lipstick returned to the height of popular fashion once again during the reign of English Queen Elizabeth I (1558 – 1603). During the time of Queen Elizabeth I bright red lips and a stark white face became fashionable. During this era, lipstick was made from a blend of beeswax and red stains from plants. Only upper class women and male actors wore makeup.


Throughout most of the 19th century the obvious use of cosmetics was not considered acceptable in Britain for respectable women, and it continued to be the trademark, so to speak, of groups on the outside of the social order, such as actors and prostitutes. It was considered brazen and uncouth to wear makeup. In the 1850s, reports were being published warning women of the dangers of using lead and vermilion in cosmetics applied to the face. By the end of the 19th century the French perfume house, Guerlain, started to manufacture lipstick for commercial usage. This version of lipstick was covered in silk paper and made from deer tallow, castor oil, and beeswax. 

16th century – Reign of English Queen Elizabeth I, bright red lips and a stark white face became fashionable. This enabled popularization of lipstick that was made from beeswax and red stained plants. Only higher classes of noble women, and stage actors wore lipstick.

18th century – During this era, lipsticks slipped from the fashion of the higher echelons of society and found its popularity among the lower classes.

19th century – Lipstick remained in widespread usage only with actors and prostitutes. The latter is referenced in Oscar Wilde’s poem, The Harlot’s House.

But one pale woman all alone,
The daylight kissing her wan hair,
Loitered beneath the gas lamps’ flare,
With lips of flame and heart of stone.

Change to this centuries long tradition came to an end when French perfumers began producing lipstick commercially in 1884, when the House of Guerlain produced the first commercial lipstick. 

1880s – Famous American actress Sarah Bernhardt begun openly wearing lipstick. During that time, lipstick did not come in tubes, but was applied with a brush.

Carmine dye was expensive and the look of carmine colored lipstick was considered unnatural and theatrical, so lipstick was frowned upon for everyday wear. Only actors and actresses could get away with wearing lipstick. In 1880, few stage actresses wore lipstick in public. The famous actress, Sarah Bernhardt, began wearing lipstick and blush, or rouge as it was known, in public. Before that point, women applied makeup at home. Bernhardt often applied carmine dye to her lips in public.

In the early 1890s, carmine was mixed with an oil and wax base. The mixture gave a natural look and became acceptable. At that time, lipstick was not sold in screw up metal tube; it was sold in paper tubes, tinted papers, or in small pots. The Sears Roebuck catalog first offered rouge for lips and cheeks to American women by the late 1890s. By 1912 fashionable American women had come to consider lipstick acceptable, though an article in the New York Times advised on the need to apply it cautiously.

By 1915, lipstick was sold in cylinder metal containers, which had been invented by Maurice Levy. Women had to slide a lever on the side of the tube in order to move the lipstick to the top of the case. In 1923, the first swivel-up tube was patented by James Bruce Mason Jr., from none other than Nashville, Tennessee. Dark red was one of the most popular shade throughout the 19th and 20th century. Dark red lipstick was popular worldwide in the Flapper Era of the 1920s. Flappers wore lipstick to symbolize their independence. Lipstick was worn around the lips to form a Cupid’s bow, inspired by actress Clara Bow. At that time, it was acceptable to apply lipstick in public and during lunch, but never at dinner.

In the early 1930s, Elizabeth Arden began to introduce different lipstick colors. She inspired other companies to create a variety of lipstick shades. In the 1930s, lipstick was seen as symbol of adult sexuality. Photography and the cinema made lipstick acceptable among women. Elizabeth Arden and Estee Lauder were among the first to sell lipstick in their salons. I have always been told that cosmetic counters are in departments stores because cosmetics, and especially lipstick, became so popular during World War II that the sales clerks needed protection from the public.

During the Second World War, metal lipstick tubes were replaced by plastic and paper tubes. Lipstick was scarce during that time because some of the essential ingredients of lipstick, petroleum and castor oil, were unavailable. With World War II enabling women to enter the workplace, and take careers in areas such as scientific research, in the late 1940s, Hazel Bishop an organic chemist, created the first long lasting lipstick, called No-Smear lipstick.


By the 1950s, movie actresses Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor helped bring back dark red lips. A 1951 survey revealed that two-thirds of teenage girls wore lipstick.

1912 – Fashionable American women accepted lipstick as an important part of their daily and public attire.

1915 – The first lipstick sold in cylinder metal containers was invented by Maurice Levy.

1920s – Rise of photography made lipstick acceptable across Europe and North America.

1921 – Use of lipstick became widespread in the U.K. by the general female population.

1923 – Cylinder swivel-up tube was patented by James Bruce Mason Jr. in Nashville, Tennessee. This invention made lipstick easy to apply.

1927 – Frenchman Paul Baudercroux invented “Rouge Baiser” which was marketed as kiss-proof lipstick. It was banned from the market because it was so long-lasting that it caused problems when removing it from the lips.

1930s – Max Factor invented lip gloss.

1940s – World War II made lipstick scarce, because several of its essential ingredients were used in the war effort (petroleum and castor oil). During those years, metal tubes were replaced by plastic and paper.

1950 – American Hazel Bishop created the first long lasting, non-smearing lipstick.

1950s – American actresses Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor popularized dark red lips. Their influence, and new inventions by the companies Gala and Max Factor created exciting colors and trends.

1960s – Rock groups Ronettes and the Shirelles popularized white lipsticks, but the majority of female popularization preferred darker and colorful tones. By then, lipstick and high heels were one of the biggest examples of femininity.

1970s – 1990s – Black lipstick was popular in Goth and Punk subcultures. marilyn_manson_cannes

It was only in late 19th century when industrial advancements enabled cosmetologist to mass produce lipsticks for commercial sales. From that point, lipsticks slowly become highly popular. New innovations made their packaging easily accessible, and it evolved lipstick into the forms we know today…tubes that open, glosses, no smear formulas, and every-shade-of-the-rainbow colors.

Worldwide acceptance of lipstick by both genders acknowledges it as an integral part of daily life. We choose colors by current fashion and by our individual preferences. We are still much like the earliest humans, using lipstick either to enhance our attractiveness, or in the immortal words of Prince…

want your




Liberato Portillo M.; Ana Lilia Vigueras G. “Natural Enemies of Cochineal (Dactylopius coccus Costa): Importance in Mexico”, 2009. 

Riordan, Theresa. Inventing Beauty: A History of the Innovations that Have Made Us Beautiful. New York, NY: Crown Publishing Group. 2004.

Eisner, T. For Love of Insects. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. 2003.

Behan, J. The Bug that Changed History. 2006. Elizabethan Makeup

Sherrow, Victoria. For Appearance’s Sake: The Historical Encyclopedia of Good Looks, Beauty, and Grooming. Connecticut: Greenwood Publishing. 2001.

All pictures/photographs are public domain for non-commercial usage, or are owned by the author.  

Report from the Battle of Chickamauga

From the project Decoding the Civil War, a note written from the Battle of Chickamauga.

Decoding the Civil War

mssEC_09_146 - battle of chickamauga.jpg840 PM
Gen Halleck  Chattanooga Tenn Sept 20th 5 PM 1863
We have met with a serious
disaster extent not yet ascertained Enemy
overwhelmed us drove our right pierced
our centre and scattered them Thomas
who had seven division remained intact
at last news Granger with two
brigades had gone to support Thomas
on the left every available reserve
was used when the men stampeded
Burnside will be notified of the
state of things at once &
you will be informed troops from
Charleston Florida Virginia & all along
the sea board are found among
the prisoners it seems that every
available man was thrown against us
sig W S Rosecrans Maj Genl

#OTD in 1863 Major General William Rosecrans sent this telegram to General-in-Chief Henry Halleck to apprise him of the situation at Chickamauga, which was not a good one for the Union forces. Among the few high points…

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Confessions from Chickamauga: “Taking Chattanooga is as important as taking Richmond.”

From the Emerging Civil War site.

Emerging Civil War

Emerging Civil War is pleased to welcome guest author Hunter S. Jones

Although I’d visited the Chickamauga Park my entire life, I knew next to nothing about the actual battle. When I started this journey, I had no idea what a corps was or a brigade, even though I have an undergrad degree in History. I learned enough to get me through the war eras, pass the exams and write the papers, and move to the parts of history I enjoy: the fashion stories, the love stories, the epidemics. There’s nothing like a plague to capture one’s imagination and change the course of world history. The further I ventured into the study of the Battle of Chickamauga, the more intriguing it became. This wasn’t about Union and Confederate Armies; these are the stories of 150,000 American soldiers. Chickamauga is the saga of broken hearts and shattered dreams which happened on…

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Women and Whiskey are Plentiful Here: Occupied Nashville in the Civil War

Thanks to Dirty, Sexy History for spotlighting my Civil War story today!

Dirty, Sexy History

NashvilleNashville, Tennessee was the largest city on the Western Front during the Civil War. With over 100,000 troops passing through the city from its occupation in 1862 until the end of the war in 1865, there was a real problem with idle troops and prostitutes.

The state of Tennessee was the last state to join the Confederacy on June 24, 1861. Following a vote by the people, Governor Isham G. Harris proclaimed “All connections by the State of Tennessee with the Federal Union dissolved…Tennessee is a free, independent government.” Nashville became a target of the Union forces due to the city’s importance as a port on the Cumberland River. Its importance as the capital of Tennessee made it a desirable prize. When it became the first Confederate state capital to fall to Union troops, the city was evacuated and Governor Harris issued a call for the legislature to assemble in…

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Phoenix Rising: A novel of Anne Boleyn by Hunter S. Jones #BookReview #AuthorInterview #ASMSG

Profesorbaker's Worldwide English Blog


The last hour of Anne Boleyn’s life…

Court intrigue, revenge and all the secrets of the last hour are revealed as one queen falls and another rises to take her place on destiny’s stage.

A young Anne Boleyn arrives at the court of King Henry VIII.

She is to be presented at the Shrovetide pageant, le Château Vert. The young and ambitious Anne has no idea that a chance encounter before the pageant will lead to her capturing the heart of the king.

What begins as a distraction becomes his obsession and leads to her destruction.

Love, hate, loyalty and betrayal come together in a single dramatic moment… the execution of a queen. The history of England will be changed for ever.

Author Interview:

Thomas: My guest today is the lovely Ms. Hunter S. Jones. Thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to…

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Characters in Motion with Hunter S. Jones

Layered Pages


What are the common movements your characters make?

For PHOENIX RISING, I wanted to write a something different about the Anne Boleyn story. As an American, I knew there was no way I could compete with UK historians or fiction authors, so I looked for a way to take a very English story and giving it an American slant.

PHOENIX RISING is the story of the last hour of Anne Boleyn’s life, as told by an astrology chart. The chart is explained by the contemporary American descendant of King Henry VIII’s physician, Lady Bliant, who drew the chart for the king in order to calculate the best time for the queen’s demise. The chart is broken down into the movement of various characters at court, based on the interpretation of the chart and the planetary aspects at that moment in time, 19 May 1536.

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Full Moon Magic

Magic and mayhem surround the full moon. The tides move at the will of the glowing orb. It is one of life’s great mysteries, as it chases the sun through the night. Since the dawn of recorded history the moon has enchanted us. We’ve worshiped and studied it. Why are we so fascinated by this celestial body which plays such a prominent role in legends and folklore?

“For the moon never beams without bringing me dreams.” Edgar Allan Poe

What is it about the moon that continues to stir us and, legend says, often drives some to madness? Surely, its power over us is a force of Nature. Associated with the deities Phoebe and Hecate, the Moon remains a source of curiosity.

Those of you who follow me know I’m researching folklore traditions and global mysticisms for my next novel. One of the traditions I’ve been introduced to are Sabian Symbols in astrology, which are basically a short phrase which give you a meaning behind the position of the signs in a chart. The full moon this week on April 22 at 1:24am EDT has captured my imagination. Why? One of the planetary placements is called the Gateway to the Garden of All Fulfilled DesiresThe_Awakening_of_Adonis_-_John_William_Waterhouse_(1899)

According to astrologer Lynda Hill, “This Symbol brings up fabulous opportunities and possibilities. You could find yourself in places with your desires met. There can be the promise of happiness; stability and feeling like you’ve arrived where you want to be. At times, though, you may be right at the point of what you want, but perhaps you need to make the deliberate action of opening the gate; admitting to yourself what you want and where you want to be. Perhaps you need to knock, showing your intention of wanting in. Maybe you already have everything you need – look around.”

Consulting the Oracle 1884 by John William Waterhouse 1849-1917

The keywords she mentions are: Happiness. Gardens and their treasures. Trellises and flowing plants. Pathways to bliss. Gates and doors. Unlocking and opening gates and doors. Analyzing your heart’s desires. The grass being greener on the other side. Rewards and treasures waiting. The allure of somewhere else. Initiations. Passages to a better life. Acquiring property. Sexual fulfillment. Opening up to life’s possibilities and rewards.

This captured my eye because so many people I follow on social media have been posting pictures of doorways, gates, and gardens. It makes me wonder if we subconsciously have an awareness of what is on the way for us. Or, maybe my friends all have great gardens and like gorgeous entryways. Plus, so many people have had such a dreadful year, I feel it’s time for something fun. Even if it makes us smile for a few minutes, then why not write short blog? 3089639_f7f24375

Whatever is behind it, this is the full moon before May Day, which makes it a powerful moon in every culture I’ve studied which celebrates that tradition. So, enjoy yourself and may all your dreams come true. Just remember, it will take time. Much like writing and researching a novel, nothing happens overnight.

The moon will continue to follow the sun.

“It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves.” William Shakespeare


The Awakening of Adonis, John William Waterhouse, 1899. Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons. (Historically the awakening of Adonis was celebrated in May but I really like this painting.)

Lynda Hill.

Consulting the Oracle, John William Waterhouse. Presented by Sir Henry Tate, 1894. Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Kitchen Garden Gate at Riverhill House, UK. © Copyright Richard Croft and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

The Mystery of the Cherokee Beloved Woman

Was the Beloved Woman of the Cherokee Nation a descendant of the Corn Goddess?

The last few months I’ve written about European fairy tales and folklore as they translate into contemporary stories. During the last few weeks, I’ve been in the old Cherokee Nation in southeast Tennessee, studying Native American culture mainly the stories of the Cherokees, Creeks, Choctaws, Chickasaws, and Seminoles. Blue-hole-spring-red-clay-tn1 (2)This has a special meaning for me, as my ancestor married the granddaughter of the last Beloved Woman of the Cherokees. He moved with The Nation to Oklahoma; the Cookson Hills are named for the family. My direct line of ancestry stayed in Tennessee, where we still maintain our farms. Now that you understand where my love of history derives, let’s see what we can discover about Cherokee and Native American folklore, how it differs from European tales and what commonalities they share.

As European stories focus on coming of age and have themes of right and wrong, Native American folklore is as varied as the tribes themselves. Anyone accustomed to European fairy tales will feel that Native American tales are incomplete. Plots have their own logic and defy traditional story telling. An episode itself may be the sole reason a story is being told. 220px-Cwy_turtleshell_rattleOften, the stories are left incomplete so that the next generation of storytellers can add their narrative, thus continuing the tribal experience. The common thread which tie the themes is the concern with  issues regarding the human race. The sacred four directions of North, South, East and West; the Above World and Below World are commonalities. You will find images and tokens in language and nuance which explain…how did we get here?what is the role of the sun, moon and stars? Oral traditions harken back for centuries which explain destruction and recreation; tricksters and heroes.

Awakening Pagan Spring Forest

A goddess of grain, corn, and the harvest has been known since ancient times by different names — Demeter, The First Mother, Cerridwen, Bridget, The Callieach, The Corn Maiden, Mother Corn, Selu and Kahesana Xaskwim. She is always the Goddess of Fertility and Life. She is the guardian of all which grows and blooms; and she is the Goddess of Death and Rebirth. In every culture she sacrifices herself at harvest, and she is reborn at springtime. It is believed that the name of Demeter, the Greek Goddess, translates literally as Corn Mother. She and Selu, the Cherokee Corn Mother, have much in common and both are surrounded by mystery.

Corn was invaluable to the Cherokees. The power given to the harvesters was the highest in the community. Let’s look at of the legends behind the grain. The following information is made available via

The first man was Kanati, and the first woman, Selu. (Selu is also called the “Corn Woman.”) She lived with her husband and two sons. Each day she would leave her house and return later with a basket full of corn. The boys wondered where the corn came from, so one day they followed her. They saw her go into a storehouse, and they got where they could peek in and watch her. There they saw her place her basket on the ground before her and begin to shake herself. The corn started falling from her body into the basket. cornfield

They then thought that their mother must surely be a witch; and that witches must die! Selu could read the boys’ thoughts. She told them that after they put her to death, they would need to follow her instructions so that they would continue to have corn for nourishment. “After you kill me, you must clear some ground in front of our house. Then drag my body in a circle seven times. Then, you must stay up all night and watch.”

The boys did this, but they got the instructions wrong. They cleared seven areas of ground, and drug her body twice in a circle. Corn began to grow, but only where her blood dropped to the ground. Because the boys were careless in listening to the instructions, corn must now be planted and taken care of in order for it to grow. And to this day, it only grows in certain spots and not the entire earth. 


The Cherokee speak an Iroquoian language, and like the Iroquois tribes, they are matrilineal, which means all kinship is traced through the mother’s family, as were the seven clans which the tribal society was based. Tribal life was balanced between males and females, with males being the hunters and warriors, and women controlling the farms and domestic spaces. In this matrilineal and matrifocal society, the power given to these women was immense. They owned the farmlands, dictated when clans would seek blood vengeance, women participated in councils, they determined the fates of war captives, women enjoyed sexual freedom and had autonomy.

Over time, the tribe pushed southward, eventually (violently) overtaking land from the Creek Tribe in present day Tennessee, north Georgia and north Alabama. They shared a language and societal structure much like their distant northern ‘cousins’. Likewise they shared many similarities with the southern tribes. These Southern tribes would become known to history as the Five Civilized Tribes. (Cherokee, Creek, Chickasaw, Choctaw, and Seminole which were moved westward on the Trail of Tears in the early 1800s.)

Cherokee tradition is one of the few worldwide which believes that the sun is the female and the male is the moon. “Anglo Saxon and Norse beliefs are that Sunna, the female, is the Sun,”says British shaman Gary Plunkett. A few others cultures which believe the same are the Welsh (Olwen), Slavic (SoIntse), and Japanese (Amaterasu). This gives us an example of how powerful they believed the female to be in maintaining the balance of the world.

high_priestess_fire_by_autumnsgoddess-d41w5omAll the Southern Tribes granted a Beloved Woman as a woman of great wisdom and power yet the Cherokees were the only tribe to allow the women status as the head of their clans. Generally, the Beloved Woman was a position which was hereditary. Their gifts of dreams, healing and wisdom were believed to be inherited from their female ancestor’s. The Plains Tribes were more apt to give the Beloved Woman title to a woman who had a gift of healing or a special message of prophecy sent in visions and dreams.

So, what did this have to do with the Corn Goddess? Most of the Southern Tribes believed that the blood line of the Beloved Woman was direct descended from the Corn Goddess. As for the Cherokee, their secrets remain their own, sealed by centuries of traditions and rituals.

Worldwide people believe in the Corn Mother, and she plays important roles throughout the year. We see shared folklore patterns. This spring equinox, be thankful for her gifts of food and growth. Now is the time for seeds and bulbs to blossom, when She awakens and is reborn as the cold and rain subside. As Gary Plunkett says, “Spring is really about fertility and energies rising. It’s a slight pause prior to the big fires of summer.”

We also see that, like the Mystery Sects of the Greek Goddess Demeter, the origins of the Cherokee’s Beloved Woman remain shrouded in the mists of time.


  • Daughters of the Earth, Carolyn Niethammer, A Touchstone Book, 1977.
  • American Indian Myths and Legends, Richard Erdoes and Alfonso Ortiz, Pantheon Books, 1984.
  • Theda Perdue. Cherokee Women: Gender and Culture Change, 1700-1835. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1998.
  • Awakening Pagan Spring Forest by Emily Balivet (
  • Michelene E. Pesantubbee. Choctaw Women in a Chaotic World: The Clash of Cultures in the Colonial Southeast. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2005.
  • Gary Plunkett, British Shaman or Awenyddion, the ancient British word meaning “Bringer of Inspiration”.
  • Red Clay State Park, Bradley County, Tennessee, United States.
  • Cherokee turtleshell rattle made by Tommy Wildcat.
  • Starcatcher by Susan Seddon-Boulet, Archival Prints and Original Art, Turning Point Gallery
  • High Priestess Fire by JenaDellaGrottaglia

Tainted Love: Doomed Queen Anne

Anne BoleynThe fairy tale love affair of King Henry VIII of England and Anne Boleyn has enchanted many of us for a lifetime. One of the most powerful kings England had ever known, Henry set aside Katherine of Aragon, his Spanish queen, severed ties with the Catholic Church and married Anne for love. This was unheard of in 1500s Europe, when dynasties and family alliances were time-honored European royal traditions.

What begins as a distraction becomes his obsession. Anne’s elusive behavior toward the King’s advances merely serve to stroke his ardor. The faster she runs from him, the stronger Henry seeks her heart, writing letters to her personally–something he loathed doing.


Henry VIII fell truly in love. For seven years he pursued, courted and finally won his longed for prize. He created the Church of England in order to marry Anne. She recklessly allowed Henry to remove everyone who resisted their union.

But, to quote Socrates…

“The hottest love has the coldest end.”

As Queen, Anne gave birth to a daughter, which history would know as Elizabeth I, yet her failure to to give the King his longed for heir in the form of a male child leads to his lack of interest in her and eventually her destruction. Anne made enemies on her way to the top, and these were the very people who were more than receptive to witness her fall from grace. Geoffrey of Monmouth had recorded in The Prophecies of Merlin and again in History of the Kings of Britain that a Queen of England would be burned at the stake. Rumors swirled as Anne had not one but two miscarriages, the final being a male fetus. Folkloric tales from the mists of ancient Britain abounded, told in codes and interpretations of portents. Anne’s days were numbered. Whispers of Lady Jane Seymour filled Anne’s ears until the two final came to blows when Anne caught Jane in Henry lap one April afternoon. It was to be Anne’s undoing.

Queen Anne was at a tennis match on May 2, 1536 when she was beckoned by a messenger to appear before the King’s Privy Council. By evening she was in the Tower of London. She was not told of the charges brought against her. But, by May 19, 1536 she she executed by a swordsman on charges of adultery, incest and treason. We can only imagine her pain and despair as she died, leaving the young Princess Elizabeth, who was not yet three years of age. Anne Boleyn is the only Queen of England to die by the sword. Henry VIII did everything possible to erase her from the historical records. But, history has a way of becoming captivated by an enigma and Anne remains forever in our collective memory as the young girl who captivated a king and changed history.

My novella PHOENIX RISING, imagines the last hour of Anne Boleyn’s life…

Court intrigue, revenge and all the secrets of the last hour are revealed as one queen falls and another rises to take her place on destiny’s stage.

A young Anne Boleyn arrives at the court of King Henry VIII. She is to be presented at the Shrovetide pageant, le Château Vert. The young and ambitious Anne has no idea that a chance encounter before the pageant will lead to her capturing the heart of the king. What begins as a distraction becomes his obsession and leads to her destruction.

Love, hate, loyalty and betrayal come together in a single dramatic moment…the execution of a queen.

Excerpt from PHOENIX RISING as told from the swordsman’s point of view


I’m not sure when I drifted off to sleep, but Master Kingston awakens me at seven in the morning in order to give me time to pray for forgiveness and break my fast. I prepare myself for my task. I am surprised to learn that I will not be wearing the traditional executioner’s outfit, which is generally supplied for me. There will be no black doublet and hose, no part of my face will be hidden, and there will be no hornlike cap placed upon my head. Instead, I will be wearing no ordinary clothing for an execution. I am to appear in gentlemen’s clothing so as not to frighten the Queen. The clothing is brought to me by Constable Kingston and paid for, I assume, by the King.

As my assistant and I wait on the scaffold, I become aware that a procession is forming by one of the gates. The King’s Guard approach the scaffold, followed by what appears to be the Officers of the Tower. It is then I see her, Queen Anne Boleyn. She is near Kingston and surrounded by her four ladies. I had forgotten how beautiful she is – actually, she looks even more beautiful than she had when I saw her in Calais a mere three years and some few months ago. It is disconcerting to see how calm she appears. Every step toward the scaffold is a step toward her death, yet she is regal and every inch a queen as she walks to her eternal reward.

I have witnessed the death of countless men, and they are either terrified, or in compete shock and denial. But this Queen Anne nears the scaffold with a peaceful face, revealing nothing to me or the throng of people who have assembled today. I notice that the four ladies attending the Queen are crying. She is consoling them, such is this lady’s dignity and grace.

It is then I think, The Queen does not know who I am when she sees me. A sense of relief washes over me. I am, as I have mentioned, dressed in the clothing of a gentleman. The Sword of Calais is hidden carefully underneath straw placed over the scaffold, so as to spare the Queen the distress of seeing the instrument of her demise. As Queen Anne mounts the scaffold, she looks around, and our eyes briefly meet. I wonder how I am going to be able to kill such a beautiful creature. She whispers something to Master Kingston, who nods his head. The Queen takes a step forward and begins to speak to the crowd. While not confessing guilt, she acknowledges that she is dying according to the laws of the Kingdom of England. She requests that the crowd pray for the life of the good and gracious King. The entire crowd, thousands of them, save for two gentlemen, bow before her. Such is this woman’s grace and strength.

When her speech ends, her ladies-in-waiting assist her by removing the short ermine caplet that she wears around her neck and shoulders. Kingston motions that it is time for her to bow on the scaffold and prepare herself. She elegantly moves to her knees. Queen Anne then removes her own hood, replacing it with a plain white linen cap given to her by one of the ladies. She meticulously tucks her long black hair strands beneath the cap. When she removes her hood, it is apparent that her hair is as dark as it had been when she had initially captivated the King a few short years earlier. Once her cap is in place, covering her hair and her eyes, she nods, which beckons one of the maids, who promptly places an additional blindfold across the Queen’s eyes. Pausing for just a moment to place her hands lovingly on the beautiful Queen’s shoulders, the maid moves to rejoin the other ladies, now openly weeping on the corner of the scaffold.

It is at this point that I can no longer hide my true identity from the crowd. I kneel beside the Queen, begging her forgiveness for the swordsman, which she graciously gives. She reaches into a pocket within her gown and removes a bag of gold coins, handing it to me. She says something in French, when I understand that she is asking me to give the coins to the swordsman. It is then I know that she does not comprehend that I am the swordsman. Due to my clothing, she doesn’t know that I was on the scaffold when she ascended the stairs. Since she speaks the French of Kings, she may not understand my more provincial French Flemish speaking manner. In English words, I promise that no one is to strike until she gives a signal, to which the Queen agrees. She then begins praying aloud, “O Lord God, have pity on my soul! To Christ, I commend my soul!”


Earlier, I had arranged with my assistant that we would distract the Queen when the final moment came, and now it is fast approaching. I can feel myself trembling. I slip off my shoes, so as not to make noise on the wooden scaffold, and I grab the sword from beneath the straw. I swing the sword twice for the momentum aids in removing the head. Then, I nod to my assistant, who is standing on the opposite side of the scaffold from myself and the sword. My assistant calls out, “Hand me the sword!” The Queen instinctively turns her head towards my assistant. The third time the sword swings, I strike. The body slumps and the beautiful head falls beside it. The Queen of England is dead. My job is done. I will return to Dover today and cross the channel to return to Calais on this night. By tomorrow, I will be back on my farm in Dunkirk, surrounded by my family who only know I am occasionally asked to visit Calais on business.

The task is completed at King Henry’s request, on the morning of 19 May 1536.


Purchase a copy of PHOENIX RISING here:

02_Phoenix Rising_Cover


Letter from Henry VIII to Anne Boleyn courtesy of Wikimedia Commons; Vatican Library online.

Secretaries of God: Women Prophets in Late Medieval and Early Modern England, Diane Watt. Boydell & Brewer, 1997.

Engraving is labeled as licensed for reuse, circa 1627.

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