Friday, August 30, 2013

Mary Shelley

On August 30, 1797, Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin was born.  She would go on to become better known as Mary Shelley, the English writer of the novel Frankenstein.  Her parents, William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft, were philosophers.

Her mother died when Mary was but eleven days old, leaving Mary and her half-sister to be raised by their father.  He encouraged his daughters to follow his liberal political theories through a rich but informal education.  This early background would influence Mary Shelley to remain a political radical for her entire life.

In 1814, Mary entered a romantic relationship with Percy Bysshe Shelley.  At this time, Percy was a married man.  But that didn't stop the couple from taking a European vacation.  When they returned home, Mary was pregnant.  She and Percy would marry in 1816, after Percy's first wife committed suicide.

The year 1816 would take the Shelley's on another vacation, this time near Geneva, Switzerland.  There, they spent the summer with Lord Byron, John William Polidori and Claire Clairmont.  While they vacationed, Lord Byron suggested that they each write a tale of the supernatural.  It wouldn't take long for the idea of Frankenstein to come to Mary.  When she began writing, she assumed it would be a short story.

Until the 1970s, Mary Shelley would be best known for her uber-famous novel and her efforts to publish her husband's works.  Now, scholars have shown an interest in Mary's other works, particularly her other novels.

The last ten years of Mary's life would be plagued by illness.  She died from a brain tumor on February 1, 1851 at the age of 53.  But I highly doubt that I am the only one that will be wishing her a happy birthday today! 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Bubonic Plague

Ring around the rosie,
a pocket full of posies.
Ashes, ashes,
we all fall down.
Hands clasped tightly together with bunches of other children, circling the playground, only to fall to the ground at the end.  Who hasn't heard that nursery rhyme?  But does it hold a hidden message about the Bubonic Plague?  Let's take a look at the disease and then we'll come back to the question.
The Bubonic Plague is a bacterial infection which kills about two-thirds of it's victims within four days.  Sound scary?  It is!
If a person gets bit by an infected flea, they may come down with plague.  Some of the best known signs and symptoms of plague are:
  • infection of the lymph glands
  • gangrene
  • chills
  • fever
  • muscle cramps
  • seizures
The most deadly outbreak of Bubonic Plague occurred when it hit Europe in 1347.  Daily life became more violent because of the mortality rate.  With the disease, there was an increase in warfare, crime and persecution. 
In the past, if a person was infected with plague, it was like a death sentence.  Fortunately, today we have these wonderful things called antibiotics!  People that suspect they may have come into contact with the disease should start a round of antibiotics within 24 hours of the first symptoms.
So back to our question: is the "Ring Around the Rosie" rhyme about the Bubonic Plague?  The answer: no.  The rhyme is simply a poem of unknown origin with no specific meaning.  Someone-at some point-decided to give the child's rhyme a dark meaning by tying it to the Bubonic Plague.
People often pay more attention to the things they fear.  Friends get together and talk about certain subjects and rumors start to fly.  Today it's extremely easy for this to happen.  The Internet breeds rumors faster than we ever thought possible!  The way around it: do research.  Make sure you have all the facts straight before you get on the horn to all your friends!

Friday, August 23, 2013


In preparation for this post, I watched a documentary called The Rite of Exorcism: Myths, Mystery and Hope.  For the Catholic-centered program, various men were interviewed on their beliefs.

The video stated that possession is when the Devil takes temporary control over a body.  There were four ways discussed that will lead to a person being possessed:
  • the occult
  • hardened sin
  • a curse
  • signing a pact
Of the above, the only path of destruction discussed in detail was the occult.  One of the men being interviewed described the occult to be when people turn away from God.  He also stated that examples of such practices would be Ouija boards, tarot cards, palm reading and the like.

The signs of possession were listed as follows:
  • abnormal strength
  • ability to speak in an unknown foreign language
  • knowledge of unknown things (clairvoyance, clairaudience, etc.)
A few more points broached in the documentary were that giving man free will was a risk God decided to take.  It is up to all people whether they will chose good or evil.  It was stated that God desires for everyone to go to heaven and that it is not He that sends people to hell, but people chose to walk there themselves.  One of the men interviewed said that it is Satan's goal to lead people to destruction and that he wants to keep people from heaven.  According to the documentary, before an exorcism is conducted, a full psychological evaluation needs to be conducted.  One person interviewed stated that the person conducting the exorcism should be the last person to suspect that a possession is present.

I'm not going to lie, it was very hard for me to watch this documentary in its entirety.  Being from a path that finds it unsettling to preach to others, it sounded to me like that was the only objective of this program.  By the descriptions given in the video, most of the practices of my faith have been demonized.

Studies have been conducted with findings suggesting that people who believe in a higher being  are more happy.  One must not believe in the Christian God in order to benefit from this.  A person simply has to believe in a higher power than themselves.

The gods and goddesses from Pagan faiths have both light and dark qualities.  There is no one supremely evil being.  But, since both light and dark sides of deities can be called upon, it is up to the  individual practitioner to chose between good and evil.  With that being said, Pagans have rules that state they are not allowed to harm anyone (including themselves) and they are not to take away the free will of another being.  The above points don't sound all that different to me than the ones stated in the documentary.

How about you?  What's your take on it?  

Tuesday, August 20, 2013


What's the difference between a graveyard and a cemetery?  Is there anything a person is not supposed to do while in a cemetery?  Are there any cemeteries you feel drawn to or shy away from?

As many people know, a cemetery is a place where the deceased are buried.  But how do they differ from graveyards?  A graveyard is also a place where the dead are put to rest.  However, graveyards are burial grounds that are located next to, and part of a church. 

A few reasons graveyards made way for cemeteries are:
  • a sharp rise in the population; possibility of people residing farther from the center of town
  • outbreaks of infectious diseases made people want to bury the victims far from cities and towns, where most graveyards were located  
  • lack of space in graveyards
  • the church refused to bury the bodies of people that did not attend their church

There are a few superstitions or old wives' tales centered around cemeteries.
  • A person traveling past a cemetery needs to hold their breath so they don't breathe in the spirits of the dead.
  • A person should not step on the graves in a cemetery, or they could inhale the spirit of the body that is buried beneath.
  • Tombstones put weight on the bodies so they don't rise from the grave (as in ghosts, vampires, ghouls, etc.).
I'm not sure how much truth resides in any of the above tales.  For me, I've always felt a great sadness when passing by or walking through a cemetery, I don't even need to know anyone buried in them.  I tend to feel awkward stepping over individual graves, it gives me the creeps.  As for tombstones weighing bodies down, it sounds like something that could have its basis in folklore of the past.  How about you?  What feelings do you get when you enter a cemetery?

Thursday, August 15, 2013

A High School of Monsters

I was recently invited to a child's birthday party where the theme was Monster High.  I was tasked with making the cupcakes and it got me to thinking....

I love the thought of a high school full of monsters.  When I was growing up, we had cartoons like Beatlejuice and Count Duckula, but I don't remember these shows having the same amount of popularity as the dolls of Monster High.

My three year old daughter has a the vampire doll, Draculaura.  The doll is creepy and disturbing, and I love it!  At Christmas time, I sat her on a table as a sort of Goth version of an Elf on the Shelf.  It was weird, I know.  But, I'm weird.

I've stated before that I saw my first vampire movie when I was nine years old.  It was no child's movie with a romantic twist, it was hard-core and I loved it!  I began to immerse myself in everything vampire related, including folklore, to thoroughly understand my monster of choice.  To say the least, this set me far apart from the other female third-graders. 

As I grew older, I waited for my fascination with vampires to cease, but it never did.  Now I know, without a doubt, that just like vampires themselves, my love for them will never die.  But when I think back at my monster-loving childhood, I am reminded of just how far I stood out from so many other kids.  I learned to hide this, and thus kept myself from being ridiculed too much.  

If Monster High dolls were around while I was growing up, I wouldn't have felt so different.  I would have been just like all the other little girls toting vampire, zombie and werewolf dollies.  But I've learned that being just like everyone else isn't always such a great thing.  So the next time you come across a "weird" kid that others laugh at, stop and think.  Maybe that kid isn't so weird after all.  Maybe they're just the trend-setter.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Creepy Kids

Have you ever wondered why horror movies with kids in them are so much more creepy?

Movies like The Shining, The Others, The Omen, Poltergeist, The Ring and many others all center around children.  Personally, this makes the movies scarier for me to watch.  It always has.  But kids in horror movies took on a different feel for me after I became a mom.

Before I had kids, it was more of a general creep factor.  The small hands.  The overall tininess.  Now, it's hard for me to see anything happen to a small child.  I keep thinking...that boy is so much like my son...the little girl reminds me of my daughter...what if it were one of my kids. 

Good horror movies will grasp attention no matter the age or background of the audience.  I suppose that's why scary movies with kids in them work so well.  How about you?  What's your big creep factor in a horror movie?

Friday, August 2, 2013

Vampire-Killing Kits

Okay, so let's set the scene....

It was a dark and stormy night.  The vampire's castle sat atop a mountain, overlooking a village.  The village people have grown tired of being frightened.  They hire a vampire hunter to take care of the problem....

Sounds like an old monster movie?  Yep, but it also has some truth to it.

You see back in the day, before science was able to explain just about everything, people were naturally more superstitious.  There were signs and symptoms believed to be vampiric evidence.  In other words, people believed that vampires existed.  I know, I know, there are people today that hope and pray that vampires do exist.  But to these simple people of long ago, vampires were total monsters, not the beautiful and sometimes sparkly (*ugh*) creatures that we know and love today.  People would go out in search of vampires to set their souls free.  With that being said, there were also kits one could acquire to aid in the killing of a vampire.

Some of the things that might end up in a vampire-killing kit would be:
  • Stakes (sharp pointy objects)
  • Crosses and crucifixes (religious symbolism)
  • Holy water (to throw at the vampire)
  • Matches or candles (for fire lighting)
  • Mirrors (highly irritating to vampires)
  • Garlic (or anything else that's stinky...onions, pungent cheese, etc.)
  • The Bible (for scripture reading)
  • Seeds (traditionally, vampires would have to stop and count every seed you threw at them)
Is there anything you would add to your kit?  Or would you gladly join the evil undead?