Saturday, February 14, 2015

Vinegar Valentines ~The Card No One Wanted

A bit of Vinegar for a sousing spouse
in this Vinegar Valetine from 1907
Did you think Valentine’s Day was always a red-hearted, lovey-dovey mush of chocolates, overpriced flowers, and overbooked restaurants?

Think again.

In the 1840’s a new fad began to appear during the second week of February; Vinegar Valentines.
Basically these were just insult cards, decorated with a vile caricature, and an offensive poem. These cards insulted the person’s looks, job, intelligence, race, body shape or any combination.

Despite (or perhaps because of) the mean-spirited slant, the fad grew. By the mid-Victorian era, they were quite popular among senders. For recipients they were less so- as if the sentiment weren't punishment enough, if a letter was unstamped, the hapless soul had to pay a penny for the delivery and the privilege of being insulted.  Millions of these cards were sold and sent, as recently as the 1940’s but very few of these cynical cards exist today- most were probably torn to shreds by the poor victim.

Political topics for vinegar valentines through the years included Secession and Suffrage

The sousing spouse found his
revenge in this Vinegar Valentine
from the 1940s

Although it is certain none of these missives could be considered "politically correct", through the years vinegar valentines with a very specific political slant were also produced, As early as the pre civil war era where Secessionists were the target, through the suffrage movement and beyond politicos took advantage of the hearty holiday to add their own brand of vinegar.

These bitter pills even found their way into modern pop culture. In Bill Watterson's Calvin and Hobbes comic strip, Calvin  often gives Susie Derkin vinegar valentines hiding his true affections for her under their cruel veil of immature distaste.

In these days of Facebook drama and Twitter trauma we may think that trolling is a foul by-product of the internet age...the long and storied history of vinegar valentines prove yet again that there is nothing new under the sun.

Many thanks to the quite excellent "QI" quiz show for the introduction to this topic! You can also visit Collector's Weekly for more in depth information on vinegar valentines. 

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Zombie Valentine’s Date Guide-Dressing to Impress

With Valentine's Day fast approaching I thought it would be nice to post a wee dating guide for our brain eating friends...The following is from 'The Enhanced Zombie Bible' now available in Paperbook and at your favorite online eBook emporium.   

The Zombie Valentine’s Date Guide
Making the Most of Your Appearance

Why are Zombies the world’s worst dressed bi-peds?

With the Zombie Apocalypse firmly under way, the world is your oyster as far as shopping’s concerned. And let’s face it; shopping at the right places to make an impact has to be high on your agenda, right? Since the downfall of civilization, large department stores and shopping malls are full of ready-to-wear goodies in all sizes. So get yourself off to the nearest outfitter, and get yourself some impressive duds, because, let’s face it, you Zombies need to impress. There’s plenty of competition for the choice cuts of meat. (Did I really say that?)

In movies and television-with all the department stores there would be available to shop in-when have you seen a well-dressed Zombie? Never, right? This is a travesty! You sir or madam can change this ridiculous trend...head out into the world with  purpose, shamble your way to the nearest store and get shopping. Don’t be afraid of those pesky humans barricading them inside such stores. There’s little food inside, and you can wait outside until they leave or look around for one of your shuffling friends who has read The Zombie Bible. He’ll be the one with the hammer on his belt… perfect for scaring the crap out of humans barricaded inside shops/malls with glass doors.

Anyway… back to Dressing to Impress. Guys, you’ve got to decide what image you’re trying to pull off. And if one doesn’t work for you, change your image! Perhaps you’re into a preppy look, nice slacks (yes, I said ‘slacks’) and a designer polo shirt will certainly get you noticed. You might even go for the full man-around-town look and grab a shirt, clip on tie (you’ll never manage to tie one, so stick to clip-ons) and single-breasted suit. Nice. Of course, if your taste runs to one of the guys in the Village People, you can do that too; there’s lots of choice out there, and plenty of ways to get noticed by the opposite sex.

Ladies, again, you’ve got an image to consider. You too can do the preppy look, nice shorts or capris’, blouse, and sun glasses is an eye-catching look. But there are also thousands of designer dresses out there, and as long as you don’t mind looking slightly out of place in the shuffling un-dead ranks, you’ll certainly get noticed. And let’s face it; if you’re not a pretentious type, Daisy Duke got plenty of cat-whistles in cut-off shorts and a checked blouse.

Once you’ve gone to the right stores, got yourself the best duds that you can get yourself into, and are ready to go on the prowl. Right? Wrong. You really need to think about a lot more than just the look if you are going to properly get your freak on.  For more tips, spend the price of a cheap coffee, and find out's all in black and white right there in  'The Enhanced Zombie Bible'...

Monday, February 2, 2015

Teaching the Wheel of the Year~ from Caledonii: Birth of a Celtic Nation

 In pagan cultures, the first snowdrops sneaking a look at the sun on Imbolc (Feb 2nd) were more than just the first sign of  warmth to come. They whispered of the passing of the goddess from  winter's Crone to the Maiden of spring. In this scene from my Caledonii series, the wisewoman passes her candle of knowledge to the maiden Kat'lana.

Winnie knelt down on the grass and closed her eyes. Kat’lana knew that she always gave thanks to Brighid, the Shining One before beginning her teachings. Even though the sun was warm on their shoulders, Winnie still wore many layers of clothes on her considerable figure. White hairs shone like strands of glistening silver as she composed herself.

Kat'lana crossed her legs and found a comfortable place in front of the wisewoman-crone. The sandy soil cushioned her light form and the regular cadence of the waves on the nearby rock gave her breathing a rhythm from which to align. She awaited the teaching, already knowing the topic. It was the day before the midsummer day, the longest day of the year. Beginning at midnight the Solstice fire would be lit and a vigil kept until just before the dawn, when the entire clan would walk to the stone circle to witness the rising of the sun between the two dark signal stones. Understanding the ebb and flow of the wheel of the year was integral to the spiritual life of her people, Winnie would remind her charge that the passage of days was a sacred thing.

"Imbolc" by Jenny Dolfen
The old woman’s eyes opened, and sparkled with promise.  “Are you ready?”

Kat’lana nodded, “Yes, wise one.”

“What is the most important day of our year?”

“The Dark Day, the Mid-winter solstice.”  Kat’lana remembered their last Dark Day with the tribe from the south, before her journey northwards into the Norland clans. Snow had covered the village, well-trodden and hard, a sharp frost already crisping the air. Yet, on the evening before the Dark Day, the tribe extinguished every fire, every lantern and fire-pot, closing out every source of heat. She knew that across the whole country, this same process was being repeated, throwing the entire land into darkness, until the time of the lighting of the bonfires the next day. “It is when we throw our very existence into the hands of the Goddess”  She remembered the dhruid’s staff as it touched the edge of the bonfire, watched in awe as the spark from the wooden tip had lit the dried grass, grinned as the divine favored their village once again.

“And what is the next most important day?” Winnie prodded.

“Tomorrow,” Kat’lana smiled, holding her head to the warming sun, luxuriating in the hot afternoon rays. Her face had already colored this summer, giving her skin a healthy brown hue. “The summer solstice, our longest day and a celebration of the Sun God, king of the summer lands.

Winnie held her staff in both hands, showing the pattern of notches on four sides. “Each year holds four quarters of ninety days.” She said, rotating the staff to show the four scored sides. “Plus one day of celebration.” “The other quarter days are planting time and harvest.”

Kat’lana anticipated the next question, touching the top notch on each side of the long rowan staff. “The equinoxes; the other edges of the square.” Kat’lana drew a square in the sand in front of her, and stabbed each corner. “After each quarter, we celebrate.”

Winnie smiled, as proud as any mother would have been. “Without the counting of the days, the sowers would plant wrongly, and the gods would be displeased.” The teacher watched the eager face of her pupil as she showed genuine thrill at the simple teaching of the Counting Days, one of Winnie’s favorite lessons. She remembered holding the Iceni child under her skirts after the fall of Boudicca, the long days trekking north, away from the Roman retaliation against the rebellious tribe, the long months of hiding. Kat'lana's heritage shimmered brightly in the eyes of this already wise warrior maiden.  “How do we give the four seasons their boundaries?”

Kat’lana’s answer was already on her lips. “The Cross-Quarter Days." She made indentations at the midpoints of her square in the sand, then drew a diamond inside it.

Wheel of the Year Stamp by CherryPieArtStamps
“The beginning of Spring?” Winnie asked, now content that her pupil had remembered her teachings from last year.

“Imbolc, the time when the lambs are born” Kat’lana said, her words precise. "winter's wise crone
is once again a maiden, her belly swollen with the babe that shall be the summer king.

Winnie could find her own phraseology in her pupil’s words. “The beginning of summer?”

“Beltane,” Kat’lana clapped her hands together, anticipating the feasts that would follow tomorrow’s ceremonies. “A time to dance, and for the joining of young couples…” She stopped, the next part of the lesson dry on her lips. No youth in the clan had approached her this year, and although she spurned male companionship for the most part, she had hoped a brave one would attempt to attract her.

“The beginning of autumn?” Winnie continued, aware of her charge’s disappointment. 

“Lughnasadh,” Kat’lana’s words were now somewhat distant, her concentration not on the lesson, but searching, wondering where her male companion would appear.

“Kat!” Winnie snapped, her sharp tone shaking Kat’lana from her thoughts. “The meaning of this day?”

“Sorry, wise one,” her head fell, her chin on her chest. “Lughnasadh is the wedding of the Sun god Lugh to the Earth goddess, causing the ripening of crops.”

“Well done, and the last Cross-Quarter day? The end of autumn, and the beginning of  our year?”

Kat’lana lifted her head, her composure returned, her words strong and confident. “Samhain is when time is not time- the veil between the worlds is lifted and our ancestors who watch us from beyond draw near again. It is also the time when we cull our herds and bring the meat in for the winter.

The old woman looked at her Iceni charge, a young woman blossoming into womanhood, yet holding onto the last vestiges of her childish self. “The lesson is over.”

Kat’lana stood, bowed her head. “Thank you, wise one.” And she was gone, sand spinning from her bare feet, bow in hand, legs pumping with the energy of youth.

Authors Note: If you would like to journey further into the world of  ancient Scotland, my just released prequal to the Caledonii series, Caledonii: Birth of a Celtic Nation. Druid & Iceni  it is now available as a FREE eBook on Amazon and Smashwords.

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