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

Profesorbaker's Worldwide English Blog

Blurb:

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

Deb HunterPHOENIX RISING by HUNTER S. JONES

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

Sources:

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. http://www.SabianSymbols.com

Consulting the Oracle, John William Waterhouse. Presented by Sir Henry Tate, 1894. http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/N01541. 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 Cherokee.org:

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. 

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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.

SOURCES:

  • Cherokee.org
  • 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 (www.EmilyBalivet.com)
  • 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.

Boleyn_letter_I

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

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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: getBook.at/phoenix_rising

02_Phoenix Rising_Cover

SOURCES:

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.

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.

XII

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?

kir

Chambord & Champagne

1/4 oz Chambord Liqueur

Champagne

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

Cheers!

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

Claire Ridgway, The Tudor Society. http://www.tudorsociety.com

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

NewOrleansOnline.com

MardiGrasOnline.com

Recipe from Liquor.com

Christoph Fischer Historical Fiction Awards 2015

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

writerchristophfischer

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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

Ingredients

  • 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

Note

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.

Directions

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.

PHOENIX RISING

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:

getBook.at/phoenix_rising

Thanks again to you and to Little Black Book Awards!

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