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Happy Halloween. Many of our Halloween traditions began with the Celtic New Year festival, Samhain, (Sow wen). This was a day without time as if fell between the old year and the new. On this day the veil between Earth and the Otherworld was at its thinnest.

In my Steampunk Romance, To Love A London Ghost, Samhain comes up a lot. The heroine, Cerridwen, is a ghost of a Celtic warrior woman, who died fighting Julius Caesar. She comes back to earth for Samhain.

Here’s a short excerpt from To Love A London Ghost:

What type of evil had come over the land…her Londinium? Phantasms were to be honored and revered on Samhain. Her descendants should have greeted and welcomed her with a platterof food from the feast. No one laid out food for the ancestors anymore. Where was Ceridwen’s plate of food? Where was Ceridwen’s honey oat cakes? It had been hundreds of years since she came for Samhain. She’d been in eternal rest for many years, a long nap, but she woke up and journeyed all the way from the Otherworld, to visit her descendants and feast with them, yet there was no feast.

Here’s another:

“Algernon doesn’t know as much as I do and he’s not quite dead, not yet.” Ceridwen focused her energy on Charlie’s rifle and it slid across the floor, far out of his reach. “Celtic spirits can take another body any time they wish.” She floated in front of Sexton.

“It’s the reason we rub ash on our faces at Samhain, to look like ghost so the spooks won’t steal our bodies.”

“I’m not sure I quite understand, my dear. You may have to explain again and go a little slower for me, because it sounded like you just said you can take over Algernon’s body.” Sexton carefully stuffed the pistols back in his pockets.

A lot of changes took place in England between the times when the Celtic tribes ruled and the era when Queen Victoria ruled. Samhain became christianized into All Saints Day, November 1, also known as All Hallow Day. People began using the term Halloween as a contraction of “All Hallows’ Evening”

In the later part of the 19th century, the Victorians began to make Halloween less about spooks and more about parties. As we know, the Victorians loved a good party. These events included a harvest theme, dancing, romantic divinations and parlor games.

Predicaments was a popular game. Players gathered in a circle and they each whispered a predicament to the person on their right. Then, they whispered a solution to the person on their left. That’s where the fun came in. Someone would start the game off, mentioning the predicament given to them. For example, Miss/Mr so-and-so, what would you do if you had blood on your collar after you dreamed of kissing a vampire? The person asked, uses the solution they were given. Which might be something like, I would eat a turnip. The solution and the predicament were unrelated, which made them funny. It would go on like that until everyone in the circle was questioned.

halloween postcards- click to go to site

Apple paring games were quite popular. In one, single women peeled an apple, trying not to break the strip. They’d toss the apple rind over their shoulder. The shape of the letter the peel resembled most was the beginning of the name of the man they’d marry.

The Ouija board was also a popular Victorian board game and perfect for Halloween.  Also, telling ghost stories was always a big hit. No one can discount the fun of sharing ghost stories. It was on a rainy evening when Mary Shelly and others guests of Lord Byron’s were reading German ghost stories to each other. Lord Byron challenged everyone at the party to write their own ghostly tale. Shortly afterwards, Mary Shelly came up with the idea for Frankenstein.

Here from Steampunk Ghostly Tales is Ghost Hunting Steampunk Style. Halloween in Skeleton Bog  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b8W-aG8SDQ8

Contest: As a Halloween treat, I’ll send one winner a PDF eBook of my Steampunk ghost story, To Love A London Ghost. It has a traditional romance heat level of three flames. Please comment below and include your email so I can contact you if you win.

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Maeve Alpin, who also write as Cornelia Amiri, is the author of 19 published books. Her latest Steampunk/Romance is Conquistadors In Outer Space. She lives in Houston Texas with her son, granddaughter, and her cat, Severus.

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We posted more winners — is it you?

It’s Day #6 of the Halloween Author Invasion. We’re still going strong with great authors blogging through Halloween and giving out prizes every day.

October 29 — Paranormal Romance Author Maggie Shayne
October 30 — Young Adult Author Ednah Walters
October 31 — Urban Fantasy Author Jeanne Stein

Today we have Paranormal Romance Author Maggie Shayne–and she has three amazing prizes to give away!

New York Times Bestselling author Maggie Shayne will be releasing her 50th full length novel, KILL ME AGAIN, this summer. Her stories span the genre, from westerns, to romantic suspense, to tales of the spiritual and paranormal, and just about everything in between. She’s a recipient of the RITA Award, the romance fiction industry’s most prestigious prize, and has won countless others. Maggie’s “Twilight” series of vampire novels, officially known as Wings in the Night, began in 1993 with a TWILIGHT PHANTASIES from Silhouette Shadows. She’s still penning novels in this series with two new stories due out next year. In addition, her new romantic suspense trilogy, “The Secrets of Shadow Falls” was just released in July, August and September.

Maggie Shayne’s Halloween

I think Halloween is my favorite holiday, and not just because I’m a card carrying modern-day Witch (although that certainly enters into it.) But it’s also because it comes during my favorite season, Autumn, and while All Hallows arrives long after the glorious foliage has passed its peak in my neck of the woods, I still associate it with that breathtaking beauty.

But it’s also everything else the holiday represents that makes me love it, not the least of which is the chocolate. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Halloween descends from the ancient Celtic celebration of Samhain (pronounced “SOW-en.”) Samhain was the final of the three harvest festivals, and it marked the end of the planting, growing, and reaping seasons. The final harvest didn’t just include fruits and veggies. It included meat, and so it was a time associated with slaughtering the animals raised for that purpose, which is part of where it gets its association with death. In fact, the full moon of October is most often known as the Blood Moon (also the Hunter’s moon.) The more widely known Harvest Moon is the full moon nearest the autumnal equinox, and the Blood Moon is the one that follows.)

The other source of Halloween’s link to death is that it’s one of the two times during the year when the veil between the world of the living and the world of the dead is perceived to be at its thinnest. (The other is May 1, or Bealtainne. In spring, however, the veil is seen to be more the one between the world of humans and the land of the Fay, of nature spirits and the like.) Communication and even travel between the worlds is said to be easiest at these times.

In days of old, families would hold a Dumb-Supper, a feast with places set for the beloved dead who had passed during the previous year. The meal was eaten in silence as the living communed with and listened for messages from those ghostly guests.

I hasten to add, the actual date of Samhain is the day that falls precisely halfway between the Autumnal Equinox, and the Winter Solstice. It’s never on October 31st, but usually the first week in November. This year it’s November 7th, in the USA.

We all know the stories of how trick-or-treating and jack-o-lanterns originated. Offerings were usually left outside the door for any spirits that might be wandering the world on Samhain night, the idea being that the treats would placate them so they wouldn’t play any tricks on the residents, or try to get inside. If the treats failed, the Jack-o-lantern, carved into a turnip, not a pumpkin, would surely frighten the spirits off. And if nothing else worked, why wearing a mask would surely do the trick. Make the spirits think you’re one of them. Then they surely won’t haunt you!

But how do modern day witches celebrate Samhain?

Well, I’ll tell you a few of the ways I do.
First, if there are any herbs, fruits or vegetables still out in the fields, I spend the weeks prior to Samhain getting them in. Old lore says anything left out on Samhain night is likely to be tainted by gremlins. So I gather my mint and rosemary and sage, apples from the trees on my lawn, and any wild weeds I want to store for winter use, before Samhain.

I will most likely hold a solitary, quiet ritual in my temple room, during which I’ll sit in quiet meditation, speaking to, and listening carefully for messages from my own beloved dead.

I’ll spend a lot of time making lists of the blessings I’ve received during the past year, and spending time in blissful appreciation of each of them. And during my Samhain ritual, I’ll give thanks more formally. Samhain was a time of feasting on the recent harvest, and probably the pre-curser to our modern day Thanksgiving. Although the Autumnal Equinox is also a day for giving thanks among Pagans. So I’ll be spending lots of time giving thanks and taking stock of all I’ve gained during the year that has just passed.

I’ll spend a great deal of time on divination, because the powers that fuel such efforts are at their peak during Autumn, and at Samhain in particular. Tarot readings tend to be my forte, though I have a crystal ball I’ve been wanting to spend more time with. So I’ll be doing many readings during the days leading up to Samhain and on the day itself. I’ll be asking many questions about the future, and the nature of being, and carefully recording the answers I receive.

Shamanic journeying too, ought to be most potent during these thin-veil nights. So I’ll be putting in some time on that, as well, and making notes and filling journals will all the insights I bring back from the Otherworlds with me.

During the Month of October everything has deeper meaning to me. The dreams I have at night, the shapes I see in the clouds, the animals that appear on my walks outside, the odd thoughts that pop into my mind out of nowhere, the ideas I get for stories. The veil is thin. The curtain is parting. The illusion that is our world becomes so transparent that we get brief, tantalizing glimpses of what’s really true. The stuff that’s coming through is not to be ignored.

To fully appreciate the energies of Samhain, you might want to create your own little holiday ritual. Here are the simple ritual steps most working Witches use.

1. Cleanse and Consecrate the ritual area.
This is done by walking in a clockwise circle around the ritual area with some cleansing incense burning, such as sage or rosemary. Wave the smoke with your hands and imagine it purifying the space of any negative vibe, leaving only peaceful, pure positive energy behind.

2. Cast the circle.
Again, move clockwise around your ritual area, holding your hand out to project an invisible beam of energy, forming a circle. Move around the circle for a second time, imaging that ring rising up above and below, forming a bubble around the area, surrounding you. Move around a third time, adding substance to that bubble, your mind focused on it being sacred space, where nothing bad can enter, and where the energy you raise is contained until you’re ready to release it.

3. Honor the four directions, give thanks, and leave offerings.
This is yet another part of the rite that is observed by Shamans of every ilk. Move to the north, imagine its energy. It is snow, ice, cold, hard. It is rock and the planet earth. It is the depth of winter and midnight, and the rest of death itself. Open your arms and honor the North. Thank it for its gifts stability, of rest and repose, of the abundance of the Earth. Leave an offering of gift for the North, blow it a kiss, and move on.
Move to the East. It is springtime, and youth and newborn life, and the air we breathe. It is new growth, sprouts and twigs and breezes and yellows and birds. It is rebirth. Open your arms and honor the East. Thank it for its gifts of intellect, muses, the written word, language, inspiration, and travel. For the freshness of rebirth, and all gifts of air. Leave it an offering, blow it a kiss, and move on.
Move to the South. It is summer and fire and passion and energy, red and orange and vitality and life and sex and richness. Open your arms and honor the South. Thank it for the gifts of passion in your live, for your energy, your strength, your creative fire. Leave it a gift and move on.
Move to the West. It is autumn, and harvest, and the ocean. It is age and wisdom and transformation. It is emotion and love and all things watery. Open your arms and honor the West. Thank it for the harvest, for the abundance in your life, and for your heart and your love. Leave it an offering and move on.
Move to the center. It is the the place of spirit, and it is the Tree of life. Above is the abode of the Gods, and Below, the land of the dead, and the ancestors. It is the place of magick. Open your arms and honor the center. Thank it for your connection to your higher self (above) and your subconscious (below), and your ancestors and your own inner magick. Leave an offering, and then move on.

Sit quietly, and perform any divinations you may feel moved to do, or just meditate and see if any information comes to you. Speak to those who’ve passed if you wish. Listen to what they say.

When you feel ready, open your eyes, ground yourself back in the physical world. Rise and thank the center, say goodbye. Move to the west, and do the same. Then to the South, and then the East, and then finally the North. You’ll note you move counter clockwise this time.

Walk once more, counterclockwise around your circle, hand extended, taking back the energy with which you created your bubble, returning the room to being just a room. And then kneel and press your palms to the floor to let the energy you’ve gathered “ground” there.

Be sure to get something to eat immediately after. And don’t go in swimming for at least an hour. 😉

For more information on Halloween traditions, I strongly recommend HALLOWEEN by Silver Ravenwolf.

And from me this season, look for re-prints of my vamps:

TWILIGHT HUNGER- October

EDGE OF TWILIGHT- November

BLUE TWILIGHT- December

All in preparation for my three NEW vampire titles in 2011.

Tune in at www.maggieshayne.com for the premier of my new vampire video on October 31st!

Happy Halloween!

Maggie
www.maggieshayne.com

How are you going to celebrate Halloween? Three lucky commenters are going to win a tarot card reading via email with Maggie!

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Happy Halloween!

I was pleasantly surprised to see steampunk costumes at the tot’s school, including a gentleman air pirate, steampunk Jane from Tarzan, and a cadre of identically dressed steampunk lolitas in fishnets and mini top hats.

Anyone going steampunk for Halloween?

I would like to announce Steamed’s First Annual Steampunk Costume Contest!

Rules:
1). email your low-res steampunk costume pics to steamedblog (@) hotmail with “Steamed Costume Contest” in the header. It does not have to be from Halloween, it can be from Steamcon or the Dickens Ball or what have you. Appropriate pictures please! This is not an over-18 site. Please include what name you’d like listed on the site and an email addy so if you win I can contact you. We have the right to not put up your photo if we feel it’s not suitable for general viewing or it’s not steampunk (we’re not going all purist, but this is not a general costume contest, feel free to explain in the email if you feel you need to).

2) There will be three categories a) Best Costume b) most unique and c) steampunk kids.

3) Group pics are welcome as long as a majority are in steampunk dress. You only get one prize (sorry). Please make sure you have permission to post it (that goes for all pictures, we have the right to take them down if they’re not yours to put up or others in the photo object).

4) Pics must be received by Friday, November 6th at 9 PM EST. Feel free to spread the word about the contest. Winners will be announced sometime on or around November 7th. The winner in each category receives a steampunk tiara or an aviator scarf (if I can find them, I recently moved). I reserve the right to substitute prizes.

5) Have fun, be creative, and most of all, have a safe Halloween!!!

On another note, Third Rail Projects in New York is having an amazing steampunk haunted house. It looks amazing!

Have a safe and happy Halloween, everyone!

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