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.

Secrets of Transformation, Part 3 The Mystery of Seduction

The Mystery of Seduction

You know how to whistle, don't you...

You know how to whistle, don’t you…

The last few blogs on transformation have noted that contemporary fairy tales with strong heroines have existed for years. Hollywood discovered traditional fables and classic fairy tales could easily be rewritten. Classic tales began to mirror concepts regarding women and femininity. Forget showcases of passive, helpless, beauty-queen femininity. Or, maybe not. It would depend on the story. Glamorous victims, dames, broads…you name it, Hollywood would give it to you. These femmes seduced us, just like maidens of the fairy tale stories of old had cast their own enchantment over kings and princes.

Secrets of Transformation has touched on the fact that our most popular fables and stories in folklore have indigenous native roots.  These tales were usually told by women, to the repetitive rhythms of work, until spinning a yarn and telling a tale were the same. Spinning and sewing themes appear in fairy tales. Our language today still has their legacy of rhythm in poetry and literature.

Story origins are studied the same way physicians analyze disease states…by collecting, comparing samples, noting traits that suggest a similar plot line and place of origin, discovering a commonality. In the last century, scholars and collectors found substantial bodies of work from Europe. (One aside…a couple of themes were similar in plot and details, including an intimate interlude with a beast or bondage scenario. Sound familiar yet? If not reference the original Little Red Riding Hood, Beauty and the Beast, and the story which translates more recently as 50 Shades of Grey.)

The Female Mystique


Let’s get back to spinning a yarn and seduction, these are symbolic of women’s work and skills which remind us that these old stories were once wives’ tales–stories told by women. Should it be surprising that a woman storyteller would cast her heroine as more clever than her adversary?  The original stories of the wise women represent female maturity in different terms than those of the later male authors in that the stories feature heroines who are strong, resilient and yet completely feminine. 

Rather than the tales of passive females making mistakes and being punished, as shown in the French fairy tales of Perrault and the brothers Grimm, older stories contain elements of a strong female archetype. There is one more remarkable element from the women’s point of view which is rarely noticed, that of being a clever heroine who prevails and survives by her own wits. But what of seduction? Let’s take a peek at it’s place in fairy tales. 

Fairy tales follow a simple structure, associated with coming of age. Generally, the story ends in marriage which was the universal symbol of adulthood. Oral folktales feature a triumphant heroine rather than a passive heroine who awaits rescue by a prince or woodcutter. In these stories, her foolishness is not punished…her adversary is duped. The stronger female emerges victorious. 


The Thrill of It All

Look at Cinderella. It’s a good versus evil story. Cinderella overcomes the evil stepmother and stepsisters. Good triumphs over evil. But, the underlying story is the one of seduction. When Cinderella leaves the ball, the Prince is smitten. Much like King Henry VIII pursued Anne Boleyn, he wants the only female in his kingdom who runs from him; the only one he cannot have is the one he wants. Cinderella’s mystique was so alluring that the prince pursued her. That is an example of the power of seduction.  

Old stories can be reinvented, and heroines can always be remade/remodeled. A classic withstands the test of time, as Hollywood has proven. What exactly is the answer to the mystery of seduction? Is it a gaze which conceals a promise from a stranger…A smile that melts your heart…It’s elusive, rare, enigmatic; what makes your heart beat faster and catches your eye. In a way, it’s what we all live for. Cinema and history are filled with tales of seduction. Feel free to share your thoughts. What seduces you? 

In the meantime…here’s a delicious love potion a friend has generously shared. But, be careful because it will transform you.

Love is the only true magic.

How to Make a Love Potion

lpWhy Jasmine: The distinct, sweet, odor induces euphoria in both men and women, and has been used to spark passion for centuries.

Why Rose: We all know women tend to think too much. The sensual fragrance of rose can block anxiety, which can spike when it comes to sex.

Why Vanilla: There is an ancient Mexican legend about a fertility goddess who could not marry the mortal man she loved. Instead of becoming bitter, she transformed herself into the vanilla plant to give happiness and pleasure to all lovers. Its warm scent and taste is welcoming, sexy, and relaxing.

Why Cinnamon: The cinnamon creates a balance with the more soothing scents of rose, jasmine, and vanilla. While those help relax you, the cinnamon ensures that you still get a burst of fiery energy.

You will need…

-2 teaspoons of dried jasmine flowers
-1 tablespoon of dried rose petals
-Vanilla pod split, or ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
-1-2 cinnamon sticks


Pour 1 cup of fresh water into a saucepan. Add 2 teaspoons of dried jasmine flowers, 1 tablespoon of dried rose petals, a vanilla pod split lengthwise or ¼ teaspoon of vanilla extract, and 1-2 cinnamon sticks. Give the mixture a stir, then simmer for 3-5 minutes.


Remove from heat and pour through the strainer. Allow to cool, then bottle it. Add sparkling water and serve chilled on a hot day, or pour into mugs and reheat, sipping slowly. You can also drink it freshly made. In the fridge it will keep for a week in a lidded container.

Shared courtesy of

 Enjoy yourself.

Twelfth Night: From Shakespeare to NOLA

Most of us have returned to work and the holidays are memories. Some of us are taking down our trees today or tomorrow, because to take them down before Epiphany is considered bad luck. For others. Epiphany or Twelfth Night has a religious connection. How does it all tie in, and what does it have to do with New Orleans? The Southern states can trace our colonial beginnings to England, France and Spain. Remnants of these, or colonial hangovers as I call them, are still apparent in many of our traditions. Far be it from any Southerner to miss out on a good tradition or superstition.

Claire Ridgway of The Anne Boleyn Files says, “In Tudor times Epiphany was a time for celebration, a last blast before getting back to normal, and it was celebrated in style at the royal court with masques, pageants and plays.”

TudorCakeThe English Christmas pudding tastes remarkably like my great-grandmother’s Jam Cake recipe. She was of English heritage and I’m certain her ancestors used the ingredients they found here to make the dessert, and the name evolved over the centuries. And, if you paid attention in history class you know that Virginia was named for the Tudor Queen, Elizabeth I. Many still see this as a last day to celebrate the holidays. In fact, Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night was written to celebrate the end of the Christmas feasting in Tudor England. WS (1)

Let’s take a look at our French and Spanish colonial roots. They were kind enough to leave the American South the inheritance of Carnival and Mardi Gras. The origins of Mardi Gras can be traced to medieval Europe. From there, the traditional revelry of “Boeuf Gras,” or fatted calf, followed France to the American colonies. In 1699, French-Canadian explorer Jean Baptiste Le Moyne Sieur de Bienville arrived sixty miles south of New Orleans. Bienville settled a location which is now Mobile, Alabama. In 1703, this tiny outpost at Mobile celebrated America’s first Mardi Gras. New Orleans was established in 1718 and by the 1730s, Mardi Gras was celebrated openly there, but not with the parades we know today. In the early 1740s, Louisiana’s governor established elegant society balls. The days leading to Fat Tuesday are the most interesting to some of us. The party begins on January 6 each year with Twelfth Night.

Twelfth Night or the feast of Epiphany,  was celebrated by Creole society from the earliest days of colonial Louisiana.  These Bals de Roi (the King’s Ball) were given at homes for family and friends. The highlight was the cutting of the King Cake (Gateau des Rois). The finder of the bean, la feve, in the cake became Le Roi or La Reine de la feve, and would reign over the next event, which they would host. From there, a series of balls began each season and culminated on the final great party of Mardi Gras evening. These traditions were formalized with the organization and first appearance of the Twelfth Night Revelers on January 6, 1870.  twelfthnight_1870At the first ball in 1870, court fools and jesters made a mess of things while attempting to serve the King Cake on their spears. The girl who found the gold bean chose not to acknowledge her “good” fortune. The following year the Lord of Misrule knew which slice contained the bean. When he saw the young lady receive the slice, he crowned her with a wreath of oak leaves, proclaiming her “Queen of the Ball.” In subsequent years, ladies who found silver beans in their cake became maids of honor.

1872 was the year that a King of Carnival, Rex, was invented to preside over the first daytime parade. Legend has it that to honor the visiting Russian Grand Duke Alexis Romanov, the Romanov colors of purple, green and gold were adopted as the Carnival’s official colors. These colors are still in use today. The following year, floats began to be constructed in New Orleans instead of France

Twelfth Night Revelers survived seasons of inactivity and reorganization during the 1880s, each time returning to open Carnival festivities on January 6. The great masquerade balls (tableaux) of earlier years were staged in the richly decorated rooms of the city’s grand hotels, The St. Louis and the St. Charles, and public masked balls continued in theaters, ballrooms, and halls of numerous civic and social organizations. All of the Carnival balls were similar in structure and ritual. A number of tableaux were performed, with beautifully scenic decors and colorfully costumed and masked krewes illustrating each year’s theme. All dancing would last until the early hours of the morning.


1884 Invitation

The royal courts were the central figures of the evening, but the extravagant parties were also designed to entertain thousands of guests. Societies looked for inspiration from mythology, literature, history, and nature. But the art of stagecraft was and is the biggest display of all. It is said that none was more brilliant than the elaborate production at the French Opera House in 1898, which was entitled “The Meeting of King Henry VIII of England and King Francis I of France on the Field of the Cloth of Gold.” Unfortunately, I can’t find a picture of that spectacular event.

When the United States entered World War I, all Carnival balls and parades were canceled. Only weeks before Twelfth Night and the opening of the Carnival season in 1920, the French Opera House was destroyed by fire. Within hours the building was reduced to smoldering fragments. The French Ambassador to the United States wired his condolences to the French Consul General in New Orleans, saddened by the loss of such an iconic structure.

Jackson SquareTraditions live on and this year’s initial Twelfth Night event is being held January 6, 2016 at 7:00pm. This blend of history and fun make New Orleans magical at this time of year. The fog rolls across the French Quarter from the river, with a slight drizzle of rain and mist in the air. The Christmas trees remain until Fat Tuesday, with only the purple, green and gold ornaments. You’ll catch one of the tarot readers locking the doors to Bottom of the Cup on Rue Royale, just like they have been doing since the 1920s. The cobbled streets and alleys are almost devoid of tourists. This is the time of year vampires probably come home to NOLA. Once you see New Orleans in early January, you will understand why Tennessee Williams fell in love with the Crescent City. Get a King Cake and invite some friends over. Here’s a festive drink recipe to get you started, it isn’t purple, gold or green but Chambord is French. This is my favorite. Why wait?


Chambord & Champagne

1/4 oz Chambord Liqueur


Add Chambord to bottom of flute and top with Champagne. Garnish with Raspberry.


“America has only three cities: New York, San Francisco and New Orleans…” Tennessee William

Claire Ridgway, The Tudor Society.

Mardi Gras Treasures, Pelican Publishing Company, Inc, 2006.

Recipe from

Secrets of Transformation, Part II

Fairy tales and folklore contain symbols from our inner psychology and universal wisdom. From the Cherokee stories of the Upper World and Middle World to the English and Welsh stories of dragons, kings and princesses, they are an important part of literature that present a unique challenge to writers.

Leighton-God_Speed!.jpgSexual connotations are hinted at without openly stating the obvious. (Please read Secrets of Transformation, Part I for more insight.) The first Grimm’s Fairy Tales were written for adults, not children.) Character archetypes cannot be avoided.  In some ways, it is impossible to create a story without using them  yet it is so easy to fall into the trap of relying on these archetypes, even without realizing it. We all know the basic character types: the hero, the damsel in distress, the wicked woman, the evil villain. But what exactly are these archetypes and how are they used? What is the difference between an archetype and a stereotype? Let’s find out how we can achieve balance in a story, transform stereotypical characters into timeless archetypes, and make the story sizzle.

What is an archetype?

The terms archetype and stereotype are used interchangeably, but the two are not exclusive. (giggle) A stereotype is an oversimplified attitude toward the way a person or group behaves in society. This term is used to justify beliefs that are not real but are cultural attitudes. An archetype is a prototype or example. While stereotypes are usually based on misinformation and prejudice, an archetype is a symbol or a theme, element or motif. The best thing a writer can do is educate themselves on the the types of archetypes and then use them for their own purposes. Magic Book

Let’s take a quick look at fairy tale archetypes.

1. The Hero Sexy Man And Woman i In Love Classic Black and White

The star, the protagonist and the character we would like to be. (Or think of the hero as the person we would like to see climb the wall to our ivory tower. Maybe he or she is someone who looks like this.)

2. The Villain

The antagonist and the person who is set against the hero. (Again, it could be someone whose looks and charm matches or exceeds that of the hero. Think of King Arthur and Lancelot…get the picture? )

3. The Sidekick

The sidekick is the best friend or a close companion of the hero.

4. The Princess

Minerva, Goddess of Wisdom by Emily Balivet.

Minerva, Goddess of Wisdom

The princess is a common archetype and is often put in the role of the hero’s romantic interest. There are stories where the hero has rescued a damsel, only to discover she is not in as much distress as one would believe. (#SouthernBelle)  Often, the female who is the object of the hero’s affection is just as capable of defending herself as the hero and fights alongside him.

5. The Adviser

The older person the hero turns to for advice; the mentor.

 6. The Femme FataleBrandy

While the villain is the opposite of the hero, the femme fatale is usually cast opposite of the princess. While the princess is virtuous and worthy, the femme fatale is sexy and worldly.

7. The Rascal

They are the unpredictable characters we hate to love, the characters we embrace and admire despite their many flaws. Generally, they are a lovable rogue. I often find myself more interested in the rascal or rogue than the hero, but that’s just me.

Anyway, I digress…

 8. The Fairy Godmother

A character in folk and fairy tales, the fairy godmother is associated with the supernatural or otherworldly, providing the hero with amulets, magic spells, wisdom and devices that develop the journey. They make the magic happen.

9. The Joker

From the guy or girl who is always cracking jokes or the dumb blonde, many stories have a character who plays the fool. This jester-like character is often used for purposes of comedy but often this is the “wise fool” of the story.

10. The Monster

A symbol of the fear the hero must overcome.

The beauty of fairy tales lies in the fact that we know that somehow, someway the story and characters will transform to reveal that good overcomes evil…the hero and princess, (or the heroine and prince) will fall in love and actually live happily ever after. Myth

More soon on transformation and characters.

Special thanks to the Writers Spot.





Look for my newest addition to The Dreams, based on fairy tales, folklore and woven with a dash of Reconstruction Era Southern Victoriana,  now available for pre-order.Snag a copy now for only 99c/99p!

Past, Darkly – The Dreams, Story 2




Secrets of Transformation, Part 1

Lipstick Booze

Lipstick and Booze

As we begin to look toward a new year, the lure of transformation beckons. New beginnings seduce us with the possibility that dreams might come true. New diets, new jobs, makeovers, holiday parties and the possibility of new friends…new, new, new. We love it and we want it as soon as we can get it,  Whether we enjoyed this year, chances are it didn’t go the way you planned, did it? Thus, new offers hope, and that is what the human spirit must have in order to endure. Today let’s take a look at four ways fairy tales have morphed into the stories we have today. Everything old is new again.

Fairy tales, those folkloric stories which are so appealing have a universal appeal. That is part of their enchantment. Sure, they are stories we share with children today, but did you know the original Grimm’s Fairy Tales were written for adults in 1812? Grimm's_Kinder-_und_Hausmärchen,_Erster_Theil_(1812).cover

Yes…the timeless stories we tell children, were written for older readers and slowly edited into stories for children to read by the mid-1800s. Fairy tales have been criticized in modern culture as being unrealistic, and questioned for their portrayal of women as weak and helpless. This negativity shows how difficult it is for the modern mind to distance itself from literally believing fairy tales as if they were contemporary stories about modern individuals.

This paradigm is easy to separate in order to understand the true meaning of fairy tales, and that is our first step. The next step is being able to understand fairy tales and derive moderns concepts from these by understanding that they are not literal stories.  They speak to higher Truth, not to actual truths.  They are in the category of Mythology and Folklore, not stories of real human beings.

What are fairy tales then?

Fairy tales are timeless stories of the human condition, and what actions the characters exhibit along the way in order to learn life’s lessons.  While fairy tales can be enjoyed and are instructive without an understanding of the meaning of these features, it is interesting to note how many of us have been conditioned by the stories we have been exposed to from childhood. As “Fables and Fairy Tales,” the first blog in this series stated, characters are noticeably underdeveloped in fairy tales, almost so that we can fill in the missing pieces with our own lives. (Or words to that effect.)

One of the features of fairy tales is that they are told to children, and that they have a magical affect.  The appeal is so powerful, that these stories have survived from various cultures around the globe. Their appeal is timeless due to the symbols used in the stories. We will have more about that in the future blogs.


Disney changed the game with its sharing of these timeless stories in movies. The Happily Ever After not only altered movie endings, but it affected books, television…practically every entertainment media we have wants a Happily Ever After ending. Of course, we really don’t know if the ending lasts forever, do we? Do we really care? That’s part of the Disney magic.

As our culture has changed, Disney is right there with us. Remember Pretty Woman? It’s a contemporary Cinderella story. Add designer clothes, lipstick, expensive champagne, two beautiful people fall in love-she wanted the fairy tale-and Hollywood gave her one.

Once Upon A Time

Another feature of a true fairy tale is that the setting is …“Once upon a time.”  This makes it a story outside time and space, a story which time cannot hold.  This should also be the first clue that these stories are not to be read literally.  These speak to Truth that goes beyond time and space, and therefore beyond our literal human lives.

Let’s return to the Grimm’s Fairy Tales. Princesses and Princes were the main characters.  These stories speak to ideals and to archetypes, symbolized by royalty.This is another point showing us that these stories deal with matters beyond the literal world which we can touch, feel and see. These stories carry us to a world of dreams.

Curses, Witches, Evil Queens

A common feature of fairy tales is the role evil plays.  The struggle between good and evil is a concept we all accept as a part of our daily lives. This is a paradox. A necessary evil, as it were, but one that is necessary to accept.  Evil is as much of a part of manifestation as good and always seeks to destroy good.  This is seen in that there is a form of “curse” that is placed on the protagonist.  Interestingly, the types of curses upon the Princesses and the Princes are quite different.  Princesses are trapped in poverty (Cinderella) or asleep (Sleeping Beauty).  Princes are turned into creatures (The Frog and the Princess). More on these stories in my next blog.

True Love & Transformation

In fairy tales, the curse is always lifted or the Princess is freed or rescued. Love removes the curse.  Love is magical. Love has a transforming power.  Indeed, only love that can defeat the evil antagonist. Love is heals.


Happily Ever After

As fairy tales begin with “Once Upon a Time,” they end with the protagonist “living happily ever after.”  In a sense this is the resolution of the paradox of the curse and Evil Queen.  Good ultimately triumphs over evil although it takes sometime.  While evil is inherent in manifestation, the only Truth is Love. “The greatest of these is love,” so we are told.

Evil must be overcome, the curse must be lifted, the Prince and Princess must come together, and they must “live happily ever after.”  The stories come alive to an audience when a prince or a billionaire, or CEO or whatever falls for the girl or woman because she is who she is.

Or even better if she is the CEO or billionaire, or Princess. She is strong enough to break the spell and stand on her own, evil queens and curses be damned. Everything old is transformed into new stories for a new millennium. We can have Prince Charming, should we choose and we can have a career as well. Just give us our lipstick and champagne, should we want it.

And Disney keeps making movies to appeal to us and our daughters.

Look for my newest addition to The Dreams, based on fairy tales, folklore and woven with a dash of Reconstruction Era Southern Victoriana,  now available for pre-order.Snag a copy now for only 99c/99p!

Past, Darkly – The Dreams, Story 2


Christoph Fischer Historical Fiction Awards 2015

PHOENIX RISING Winner of Christoph Fischer Excellence Award for Outstanding Historical Fiction 2015


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This is the toughest category for me because I read so much of it. All of the authors mentioned here are winners. Narrowing it down has been incredibly difficult, as making the decision whom to crown overall winner. Here are the excellence awards and one winner, along with my reviews or reviews posted on Goodreads:

Phoenix Rising: A novel of Anne Boleyn” by 11242907_10200301094008045_1191049609_oHunter Jones is a beautifully artistic and original piece of historical fiction that evoked a wide range of emotions in me. The book moved me and brought magic and wonder to the sad event in British History. Being a fan of fiction about the Tudor times I’m pleased to have found a book with such a unique and engaging approach.
Jones tells of the last hour of Queen Anne Boleyn and does so wonderfully with the help of an astrological chart: Twelve segments, all corresponding to…

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The Magic of Winter Solstice

Original artwork available

Today, Wednesday 21  at 10:44 am GMT–5:44 am EST~~we experience the exact moment of the winter solstice, the first day of winter.  This makes for the longest night of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. Days will get longer until the summer solstice in June 2017. The winter solstice has been celebrated throughout history as the return of the sun. Darkness is turning into light. What did our ancestors believe and what remains their legacy to us regarding this most spiritual of days?

Saturnalia & Etc.,

In ancient Rome, the winter solstice was enjoyed at the Feast of Saturnalia, the god of agricultural bounty. The week long festivities were characterized by drinking, debauchery and gift-giving. When Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity, many of these customs were adjusted into much milder (and tamer) Christmas celebrations. The English Lord of Misrule has his roots in these old traditions. The Tudor King Henry VIII saw to it that this character was quieted due to the country’s new Protestant beliefs when the King founded the Church of England in order to marry his beloved Anne Boleyn. He didn’t want the crowds which gathered for the Christmas festivities getting out of control, so he distanced them in a very calculated way. His daughter Elizabeth I continued her father’s low-key placement of the Lord of Misrule at Christmas.

A Lot of Dancing & Drinking

winter-solstice-NewgrangeOne of the most famous celebrations of the winter solstice today takes place in the ruins of Stonehenge, England. Thousands of druids and pagans gather to chant, dance and sing…hoping to see the sun and the promise of a new beginning. But, as you can see from this picture, Newgrange Ireland is one of the best kept secrets of winter solstice. According to English Shaman Gary Plunkett, “It is magical if the weather is sunny.”  Indigenous native religions worldwide believe that the earth is the foundation of all the four elements. According to The White Goddess, “The Earth can be viewed as our mother. The Earth is the womb from which all things spring…In its fertile soil, we’ve grown the food that provides life, on its surface we live out our lives, and when the time to return to the Goddess and God comes, we are interred in the earth…This Earth energy not only exists within ourselves but also throughout the universe at large.” The Earth element is symbolized by the north which is winter and darkness. 

Winter Trees

Until the 16th century, the winter months were times of famine and starvation in northern Europe and north and central America. Cattle and bison were slaughtered so they wouldn’t have to be fed during the winter months, and the hunting season had officially ended. This made solstice a time when fresh meat was plentiful, hence celebrations of the winter solstice in Europe involved merriment and feasting. My blog last week discussed this along with the Scandinavian Yule folkloric traditions.

Worlds of Enchantment

The majority of ancient beliefs acknowledge a Goddess at this time of year. Here are a few of the December observances which were revered by the ancients and have been shared by  Patti Wigington from her website:

  • Bona Dea (Roman): This fertility goddess was worshiped in a secret temple on the Aventine hill in Rome, and only women were permitted to attend her rites. Her annual festival was held early in December.Cailleach Bheur (Celtic): MMCIn Scotland, she is also called Beira, the Queen of Winter. She is the hag aspect of the Triple Goddess, and rules the dark days between Samhain and Beltaine.
  • Demeter (Greek): Through her daughter, Persephone, Demeter is linked strongly to the changing of the seasons and is often connected to the image of the Dark Mother in winter. When Persephone was abducted by Hades, Demeter’s grief caused the earth to die for six months, until her daughter’s return.
  • Dionysus (Greek): A festival called Brumalia was held every December in honor of Dionysus and his fermented grape wine. The event proved so popular that the Romans adopted it as well in their celebrations of Bacchus.
  • Frigga (Norse): Frigga honored her son, Baldur, by asking all of nature not to harm him, but in her haste overlooked the mistletoe plant. Loki fooled Baldur’s blind twin, Hodr, into killing him with a spear made of mistletoe but Odin later restored him to life. As thanks, Frigga declared that mistletoe must be regarded as a plant of love, rather than death. File Dec 19, 8 45 56 PM
  • Holly King (British/Celtic): The Holly King is a figure found in British tales and folklore. He is similar to the Green Man, the archetype of the forest. In modern Pagan religion, the Holly King battles the Oak King for supremacy throughout the year. At the winter solstice, the Holly King is defeated.
  • Odin (Norse): In some legends, Odin bestowed gifts at Yuletide upon his people, riding a magical flying horse across the sky. This legend may have combined with that of St. Nicholas to create the modern Santa Claus.
  • Saturn (Roman): Every December, the Romans threw a week-long celebration of debauchery and fun, called Saturnalia in honor of their agricultural god, Saturn. Roles were reversed, and slaves became the masters, at least temporarily. This is where the tradition of the Lord of Misrule originated.

Cheers to Your Health & Good Fortune!

Here is a Wassail recipe for those of  you of British/Celtic/English origin. The pagan and the tradition versions of the wassail song are remarkably similar. When we think of our current holiday traditions, we owe more to the Winter Goddess of our ancestors than I ever realized until researching for today’s blog. Enjoy yourself however you celebrate. Have a safe and magical Holiday Season spent with those you love.

(A very special thank you to artist Emily Balivet for allowing me to use her print, The Snow Queen, as today’s featured image.)

Old apple tree we wassail thee
And hoping thou will bear
For the Lord doth know where we shall be
‘Til apples come another year

For to bear well and to bloom well
So merry let us be
Let every man take off his hat
And shout to the old apple tree

Old apple tree we wassail thee
And hoping thou will bear
Hat fulls, cap fulls, three bushel bag fulls
And a little heap under the stair

Hip! Hip! Hooray!

Serves serves 6 to 8 people
Prep time 15 minutes
Cook time 15 minutes
Total time 30 minutes
Meal type Beverage
Misc Pre-preparable, Serve Hot
Occasion Christmas, Formal Party,Halloween
Region British
By author Karen Burns-Booth


  • 6 small apples, cored
  • 6 teaspoons soft brown sugar
  • 1 orange
  • 6 cloves
  • 1 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 4 1/4 pints of cider
  • 1 1/4 cups of port
  • 1 1/4 cups of sherry or Madeira
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 lemon, halved


A traditional English Wassail recipe that originates from Suffolk is a delectable hot, spiced mulled cider with sherry and port and is served with the all important baked apples. A Yorkshire version called “Lamb’s Wool” is made with ale instead of cider.


Step 1 Pre-heat oven to 200C/400F.
Step 2 Cut around the middle of each apple with a sharp knife and place them in an oven-proof dish. Fill each apple core cavity with a teaspoon of sift brown sugar. Stick the cloves in the orange and place it with the apples in the dish. Add a little water, about 6 tablespoons and roast in the pre-heated oven for 30 to 45 minutes, or until the apples are soft but still retain their shape.
Step 3 Leave the apples in the dish to keep warm and take the orange out – cut it in half and place it on a large sauce pan. Add the rest of the ingredients and the juices from the apple roasting dish to the sauce pan and gently heat until the sugar has dissolved.
Step 4 Bring the mixture to the boil and then turn it down immediately and keep it warm until you need to serve it.
Step 5 When you are ready to serve the wassail, ladle the fruit and spiced into a large punch bowl and then pour the wassail into the bowl. Add the apples by floating them on top and serve straight away in warmed mugs or cups.
Step 6 The apples can be eaten afterwards as a delectable dessert with cream or custard.


Little Black Book Awards announced this morning that my novella PHOENIX RISING has won the Best Historical Fiction Award for 2015.

02_Phoenix Rising_Cover

PHOENIX RISING is the story of the last hour of Anne Boleyn’s life, told from an astrology chart found by the descendant of Henry VIII’s Welsh medicine  woman, Lady Bliant.

Many thanks to MadeGlobal Publishing for bringing PHOENIX RISING to print, and a special thank you to everyone who has taken the time to read this little book. You’ve made me a best-selling author in 2015. Because of this book I’m now a member of so many prestigious author’s groups, the book is being developed into a screenplay, and it is all because you!

Get the Kindle or paperback version of PHOENIX RISING here:

Thanks again to you and to Little Black Book Awards!

The Winter Goddess

Today is Sankta Lucia in Scandinavia, or Saint Lucy’s Day.  Once upon a time before the calendars changed from Julian to Gregorian, today was the pagan festival of lights and coincided with Yule. For our ancestors, this was the day of celebration for the Mother Goddess and the birth of the sun. The longest night brought the promise of longer days. In modern times, with the calendar shift, we have Winter Solstice around December 20-23, and Christmas and Santa Claus are our inheritance. But, what of the Winter Goddess? What role did she play in the lore and mystery of Yule?

The St. Lucy’s Day celebrations retain many indigenous European Nordic and Germanic pagan midwinter elements. Some of the practices associated with the day predate the adoption of Christianity in Scandinavia, and like much of indigenous folklore, it is centered on the yearly struggle between light and darkness.

The first mention of the Nordic observation of St. Lucy’s Day is found in the Middle Ages, and continued after the Protestant Reformation. It is likely that tradition owes its popularity in the Scandinavian countries due to the extreme change in daylight hours between the seasons in this region.

The pre-Christian holiday of Yule, or jól, was the most important holiday in Scandinavia and Northern Europe. Originally the observance of the winter solstice, the rebirth of the sun, brought many traditions that remain in worldwide Christmas celebrations today. The Yule season was a time for feasting, drinking, gift-giving, and gatherings. At the time when Christianity was introduced to Scandinavia, December 13 could have remained in tradition as being the shortest day. The name “Little Yule” has stayed with the day because it marked the start of Christmas month.

A Swedish source states that the date of Winter Solstice, St. Lucia, Lucinatta, Lucia-day, Lussi-mass predates the Gregorian which implies that “Lucia’s Day” was December 13 in the Julian Calendar, which is equal to December 21 in the Gregorian Calendar.


Winter TreesIn Nordic belief this was also the season of fear due to the forces of the dark. Lussi, a female being with evil traits, like a female demon or witch, was said to ride through the air with her followers, called Lussiferda. This could be the myth of the Wild Hunt, called Oskoreia in Scandinavia, and found across parts of Europe.

Next time you’re in Iceland, check out their Yule traditions, including the Yule cat and let me know what you think. I adore them.

Anyway, between Lussi Night and Yule, trolls and evil spirits, in some say the spirits of the dead, were thought to be active outside. It was believed to be dangerous during Lussi Night. According to traditions, children who had been naughty had to be extra careful because Lussi could come down the chimney and take them. The tradition of Lussevaka – staying awake through the Lussinatta to guard oneself and the household against evil and prepare safely for Yule, has found a modern form which is having parties until sunrise. Another company of spirits was said to come riding through the night around Yule itself, journeying through the air, over land and water. This story is much like the fairy tale retold to us by Hans Christain Andersen in The Snow Queen, its latest version being Disney’s Frozen. (Sorry Gregory. You knew that one was coming, didn’t you?)

St. Lucy


Why is Scandinavia, and Sweden in particular, an area which prides itself on its secular beliefs, so smitten with a saint? Let’s take a brief look at the history. According to the traditional story, Lucy was born to wealthy parents around 283 AD. Her father was of Roman origin, but died when she was five years old leaving Lucy and her mother without a guardian. No verified sources for her life story exist except for the ones in hagiographies. St. Lucy, whose name Lucia translates to “light” or Lux in Latin possibly took this name because in order to serve others, she needed to have both hands free. She solved this problem by attaching candles to a wreath atop her head. This tradition is still observed today in observing her feast day.

Possibly, there is something within us with a knowledge the ancients felt for a Winter Goddess and to the old matriarchal religions, or the beliefs in the struggle between light and darkness that make this “Little Yule” the beginning of the Christmas month. Maybe there is a need within us to share the whispers of the earth song the way our ancestors understood it as the Wheel of the Earth prepares to turn at Winter Solstice. Such is the cycle of life and universal rebirth.

Traditional treats

 Shared from

The sweet yeast rolls that are served during the Christmas season are flavoured with golden saffron and dark raisins and often shaped into ‘Lucia cats’ (lussekatter). The gingersnaps are customarily cut in the shape of little men and women, pigs or hearts, and are often decorated with frosting. It is not uncommon for children to help build little houses out of gingersnap dough to celebrate Christmas.

But sweet yeast buns without saffron are eaten year round in Sweden, usually in the form of cinnamon buns. Gingersnaps are also eaten year round, though most of the time they are not home-made and are generally just round in shape.

Saffron buns



(25 buns)
1 g (1/28 oz) saffron threads
50 g (2 oz) yeast
200 g (7 oz) sugar
300 ml (1½ cup) milk
1 egg
150–200 g (5–7 oz) butter
1 tsp salt
750 g (26 oz) flour
100 g (3½ oz) raisins


1 egg
2 tbs water


To make ‘Lucia cats’ (lussekatter), grind the saffron along with a cube of sugar, using a mortar and pestle. (For those who think ahead: drip a little cognac on top, and let stand a few days.) Crumble the yeast in a bowl and stir in a few tablespoons of milk. Melt the butter and pour on the milk.

Add the rest of the ingredients, except the raisins, and knead the dough in a dough mixer for 10 minutes. Carefully mix in most of the raisins, cover the dough and let it rise for 30 minutes at room temperature.
Divide the dough into 25 pieces and roll the buns in an oblong shape, about 10 cm (4 in) long. Cover them and let rest for 10 minutes, then roll them twice as long and twist the ends of each bun in opposite directions to form a sort of figure 8. Put one raisin in the middle of each half figure 8.

Place on a greased baking sheet and let rise under a towel for about 90 minutes, or until the buns have doubled in size. Bake in the oven (220°C/425°F) for 5 minutes. Beat together the egg and water, brush the mixture on the buns. Allow to cool on the baking sheet.

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