Myths and Legends Part 2

Today we’re taking a look at 3 more of the spooky legends that surface around Halloween each year.

Werewolves:
Countries around the world and throughout history all have legends and stories about werewolf type creatures.  There are actually 3 types of werewolves: the shapeshifter (can change form at any time), the wolfman, and true werewolves (who transform during the full moon).  One legend says that there is a spirit-god named Wisakachek in Native American Mythology who was a shape-shifter who lived in the woods and was a friend to humans.  He turned the first people into werewolves to help them be better hunters when he saw that they were struggling so much.  Some werewolf stories can be attributed to hypertrichosis, which creates unusually long hair on the face and body; and a second condition, porphyria, which is characterized by extreme sensitivity to light (thus encouraging its victims to only go out at night), seizures, anxiety, and other symptoms.  (Learn more here and here)

Vampire:
Most often Romanian prince Vlad Tepes from the 1400’s is credited as the basis for the Dracula story, but others believe that the gods Apollo and Artemis can be credited for the first vampire. And while many people are familiar with the concept of vampires being humans who return from the dead, others believe that vampires aren’t human in any way, but supernatural beings even as far back as Ancient Egypt.  Vampires are always believed to drink blood, regardless of what other characteristics they may be believed to have (like turning into bats or having a reflection that aren’t universally believed).  Interestingly, vampires were one easy answer to the age-old question of why bad things happen to good people.  Some traditions believe that iron bars are just as effective as wood because vampires are known to fear iron.  If you’re thinking of becoming a vampire, you may want to think twice because “anyone who consumes blood regularly runs a real risk of haemochromatosis (iron overdose), which can cause a wide variety of diseases and problems, including liver and nervous system damage.”  (Learn even more here.)

Lake Monsters:
There’s an extensive list of monsters that live in bodies of water.  There’s Champ in the US/Canada, Nessie the Loch Ness monster, the Kraken, mermaids, Ogopogo in Canada, Nahuelito in Argentina, and other supposed monsters in many countries around the world. Sea/lake monsters are notoriously hard to see and identify because of the water that they supposedly live in and the number of things that could be seen instead of the monster that people think they’re seeing such as deer, logs and even just waves.  If people are seeing what they think they’re seeing they are in the forms of fish, serpents, crocodiles, turtles and other sea/water animals, but much larger.  Of all the scary creatures in the world I think they’re one of the best that have a chance of being real.

What spooky creatures capture your attention?

Myths and Legends Part 1

For the next 2 posts we’re going to slightly deviate from the usual, and talk instead about some of the facts and history behind some of the most famous legends and spooky stories.   What interests me is that there is almost always some truth behind a legend, even if it’s not paranormal/supernatural in nature, after all, the stories had to have some foundation to be started.

Jack-o-Lanterns:
According to one source, “Celtic folklore tells the tale of a drunken farmer named Jack who tricked the devil, but his trickery resulted in him being turned away from both the gates of heaven and hell after he died. Having no choice but to wander around the darkness of purgatory, Jack made a lantern from a turnip and a burning lump of coal that the devil had tossed him from hell.

Jack, the story goes, used the lantern to guide his lost soul; as such, the Celts believed that placing Jack-o’-lanterns outside would help guide lost spirits home when they wander the streets on Halloween.”

Other stories about the jack-o-lantern include using the scary faces that could be cut into pumpkins to scare away evil, rather than guide souls.  Another famous pumpkin related story is that of the Legend of Sleepy Hollow.  This isn’t based on a factual event but is a story by Washington Irving.  Irving did hear folk stories about a German/English/Scandinavian headless rider, so that may have inspired his work, but from what history shows, tell the pumpkin was all his own. (You can learn even more here and here)

Buried Alive:
This became a scary legend because it was true too often.  In the centuries before modern medicine it was often hard to tell if someone was truly dead or alive.  But because they were concerned about illnesses (and no one really wants to live around a possibly dead person), they were buried when it was determined according to their limited knowledge that the person was dead. Because of how frequently this occurred there was a coffin created, the “safety coffin”, and the addition to the bell at each grave site.  Unfortunately sometimes modern medicine misses stuff and very rare cases occur still today.  (You can learn more here and here)

Bloody Mary:
The thing about this spooky legend is that there are at least 2 legends behind this name, the foremost being Queen Mary from.  She got the name because she was next in the bloodline to rule and had to produce an heir to keep the bloodline going.  She unfortunately couldn’t have a baby and after several tries was killed by her sister, Elizabeth, who became ruler instead.

Another story around Bloody Mary include the legend of a woman appearing in a mirror after her name is called 3 times to the mirror.  Ironically, rather than seeing death the legend of looking into a mirror was about walking backwards up stairs in a dark house gazing into a mirror to see their future husband’s face.   (You can learn more here and here).

Ouija Board:
The Ouija Board started in the 1800’s, as an extension to the seances that were popular in many circles, including religious and political ones.  People too often died before they reached 50 years of age, so there was a lot of questions about what came next, as well as reassurance about the children they lost too young.  Stories about a ‘talking board’ appeared in 1886 and one wise business man decided to take it to the masses and give them the chance to connect with their lost loved ones.  So in the 1891 the board appeared in stores, marketed as a board game and a “magical device that answers questions about past, present and future”, not to mention a little fun at the same time.  While many things have changed since then, the board remains basically the same.  As to whether or not the board actually works, the jury is still out on that, although some people say it’s a completely human interaction, no spooks involved.

What stories and legends are you most fascinated by?

Reality Reflection: Enjoying Fears?

This month we’ve been talking a lot about the topic of enjoying life, but for the next week we’ll be getting into the other topic that everyone talks about in October: Halloween.  Today I thought we’d talk about something that can be a controversial topic, enjoying Halloween.  I know that most people, whether they admit it or not, get a little excited by a scare, or find something intriguing about all things scary.  It might be all about the mystery for people: there’s just so much we don’t know about what comes next, whether we’re talking about what’s around the corner, what’s in the dark or what’s after this life.  For others it might just be all about the adrenaline rush that they experience when they get scared.  But whatever it is, it captures our attention.

But what about enjoying the scare and enjoying feeling that fear?  Is it wrong to watch scary movies, talk about legends/myths/monsters, try to scare others or open ourselves up to considering what might be out there?  I think there are lots of scares that can be fun and are OK to be involved in, like telling scary stories, watching scary movies or visiting the Halloween attractions that open up every year in October (places with actors, not those that are reportedly haunted).  I think that some would say it’s necessary to do some investigating of places that are reportedly haunted because there is so much we don’t know, and as the saying goes, knowledge is power.  But I think we need to be careful of how far we go and of how much power we give the fear, because fears can absolutely ruin your life, and I believe there are some very bad things out there that we can’t see (not to mention the bad stuff we can see).

I think we all need things that excite us in our lives, things that make us feel alive, things that we’re curious about.  But like racing hot rods, eating or gambling, I think that scares need to be taken in moderation.  I don’t think that it’s something you should devote your life to unless you’re truly willing to face whatever consequences may show up.  I think a little fear can be good fun with friends or family, and that it’s OK to watch a scary movie or ghost show on TV occasionally.  So this Halloween, as your kids are running around in their costumes and consuming candy and other treats, if you want your treat to be a little fear, don’t feel too guilty, go ahead and enjoy.

What’s your perspective on fears, scares and Halloween?

Reality Reflection: Ghosts and Ghost Stories

October is typically known for one thing here in the US: Halloween.  I love seeing all the creative things that kids choose to wear and am still a big fan of candy even if I can’t eat it much anymore.  I’ve also been known to watch a scary movie or two, as well as watch some shows about ghosts on TV.  Recently I was watching one that got me thinking about the reality of ghosts.  I’ve seen too many shows to not believe that there is something that we can’t see going on in the world.  While I do believe that there’s Heaven and a life after this one, there’s also something that clearly interacts with us in our world, known under the common term of ‘ghosts.’  Some of the ghosts are able to interact with us, but others aren’t aware of us or how things have changed since they lived.

What got me thinking about ghosts was a comment about if they belong here with us.  There are some ghosts that are happy to be here, others that are frustrated and feel trapped here, others that we’re keeping here and the group of ghosts that are unaware of being here.  The ghosts I want to focus on today are those who are frustrated and trapped and those who we’re keeping here.  While I don’t have personal knowledge or experience with ghosts, if ghosts are anything like people I can believe that there are ghosts like that.  I can believe that there are ghosts who get stuck and act out as a result.  I can also believe that some ghosts are kept here by us because we can’t let them go or we do things to keep them here like seances, Ouija boards and maybe even ghost hunting.  As much as it’s cool and interesting to interact with ghosts and prove their existence, with these ghosts it sounds like it would be better if we would let them go instead of trying to keep them here with us.

This discussion on ghosts reminded me a lot about how we live our lives too.  We have been known to hold ourselves back, we’ve been known to act out towards others because we’re frustrated and we’re known to hold others back as well for one reason or another (including jealousy).  Just like it’s necessary to let some of the ghosts go on their way and not stay with us, it’s equally (or more) important to work on freedom in our lives.

I encourage you to take time this week to figure out if you’ve been holding yourself back, if you’ve been holding others back, if you feel trapped, and what you’re going to do to change it. Maybe it’s writing a letter to someone who has passed on that you’re letting hold you back from developing your full potential. Maybe it’s enrolling in a class to further your skills, maybe it’s getting coffee with someone to bury the hatchet.  Maybe it’s just choosing to forgive someone or yourself and letting go of the past.  Whatever it is I encourage you to make moves this week so that you can live your life with happiness and fulfillment.

Awareness Actions

Today is the celebration and recognition of Halloween in the USA. It’s a day that kids and adults dress up in crazy and scary costumes, collect candy, watch scary movies and talk about the things that scare us. Halloween is an interesting holiday because it really forces us to think about the things that intimidate us, things that we try not to think about during the rest of the year, things that put us in a panic any time we think about them, let alone have to experience them.

But there’s another thing that is recognized in October: awareness. This is the month we remember Bullying, ADHD, Learning Disabilities, Breast Cancer, Domestic Violence, Lupus, Diabetes, and more I’m sure. For many people these are their greatest fears; they fear dying of a disease, they fear being killed by a spouse, or they fear their child not being healthy. There’s a reason that we have days, weeks and months devoted to remembering and being active in raising awareness and answers for them: because as with other fears they often get shelved because they scare us.

It’s unfortunate that when we do fear things we often try to avoid them in every way shape and form. We don’t like to talk about them or hear about them, and we certainly don’t want to do something about them because that would mean we acknowledge they exist and something needs to be done.

The first step to conquering a fear is to admit that you’re afraid. You can’t do anything about it until you know it’s an issue, right? If you never looked in your fridge you’d never know if there was moldy cheese in it. Only when you look will you know.

The second is often the scariest to us: to admit that it’s OK to be afraid and have fears. It doesn’t seem manly, strong, courageous or powerful to admit that we have fears or we’re dealing with something that scares us like these situations can. But you’ll hear story after story of how stepping up was exactly what was needed; a really obvious example was the March on Washington, sit-ins and speech by Dr. King for the civil rights movement, actions that were taken despite big fears people had.

The third step is the hardest: getting help. We again fear telling people that we’ve got this issue and need help with it. We pretend it’s not a big deal or that we can just deal with it ourselves, when the truth is the quickest and best way is usually with the support of someone else. Maybe you do need to face the fear head on and do the work yourself to get over the fear but that doesn’t mean you don’t need or deserve a cheer squad at your back to support and encourage you.

And when we ask for help we discover the truth about fear and awareness of issues: that behind it all there is still love in the world. Companies and people make big bucks off your fear staying intact, but that’s not helpful to you, only them. Instead of seeing and embracing the fear and ignorance, look for the love this Halloween.

“Love… it surrounds every being and extends slowly to embrace all that shall be.”
Khalil Gibran

Halloween: Get it or Forget it?

Coming up next week is Halloween.  Many Christians, and other religious people, are against the holiday, believing that all it does is promote evil stuff.  I think that it has lost a lot of it’s original meaning, and now it’s mostly a holiday where kids (and some adults) dress up and get candy.  While I could share many reasons why I like Halloween (including the candy), let’s focus on two reasons that are the most convincing, and what we can learn from this holiday.

1-it gives kids a chance to try something different. No matter what their parents say or how they’re groomed, Halloween provides kids an opportunity to be anyone they want to be.  Kids use their imaginations and live their dreams for this one day.  We should take a clue from them and try something different.  We’ve been taught certain things, raised certain ways and have fallen into certain habits.  Trying something different is not only fun but healthy.

2-Halloween promotes community.  There’s no two ways around this, Halloween requires you to go around your neighborhood, meet your neighbors and have some fun.  You can’t properly celebrate Halloween without seeing other people.  You can celebrate Christmas with a drink and watching Miracle on 34th Street, but you can’t “do” Halloween without knocking on other people’s doors.

So this Halloween, stay safe, have fun, and go out into your communities!