Mythical Monday: Chasing Leprechauns by Mae Clair

Top ‘o the morning to ye and Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Although I ran this post last year, I thought it worth re-sharing on this splendid day marking the wearin’ of the green.  Last year St. Patrick’s Day didn’t fall on a Mythical Monday. This year, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity when the date coincided so perfectly (maybe the wee folk had something to do with it)! So enjoy a virtual green beer on me while I trot out a much beloved figure from myth.

Leprechaun Sitting on ToadstoolRemember when you were a kid, and you wanted to catch a leprechaun? If you were like me, it had nothing to do with that legendary pot of gold. What was gold to a kid? The allure was the idea of a magical wee creature who could move between worlds. Spying a leprechaun meant maybe, just maybe, the veil between everyday reality and a hidden otherworld grew thin enough to cross over. What child wouldn’t want to explore a fairytale realm where enchantment was king?

Shoemakers by trade, Leprechauns were mostly solitary, but they enjoyed a good reel with the fiddle and tin whistles at night. Kindred to the Fair Folk, they were descended from the great Tuatha Dé Danann, and squirreled their gold away in buried pots. If you were crafty enough to catch a leprechaun and kept your eye fixed on him, he’d have to reveal the location of his gold when asked. One blink, however, and he quickly vanished from sight.

When I was a kid, there was a huge open field across the street from my house. It backed up to the rear yards of the homes on that side, and stretched the full length of the neighborhood. It was a magical place fully of whimsy. I didn’t realize it at the time, but it was an enchanted realm all its own. There were walnut trees and wild flowers, clusters of honeysuckle and patches of sun-sweetened strawberries. When dusk settled, my friends and I gathered to watch bats launch from the tops of snarled dark trees. In the winter, we donned skates and glided on frozen ground water beneath a full moon. Autumn was perfect for gathering acorns and trekking to the “big hill” that sprouted from the earth like a mythical fairy mound.

Pot of GoldI never did find a leprechaun in that magical kingdom, not that I ever put any great energy into the search. I preferred to imagine one of the wee folk watching from beneath a shaded leaf or a plump toadstool. The problem with magic is that when you leash it, the enchantment fades. Perhaps that is why leprechauns and pots of gold only exist at the end of rainbows for rainbows have no end.

I don’t have a drop of Irish blood in my veins – – I’m Italian and German with a smidgen of Brit mixed in – – but I think all of us feel a connection to the Emerald Isle, especially during the month of March. So whether you’re Irish or just honorary for the day like me, here’s hoping your day is filled with rainbows and the blessings of the wee folk.

Was there a magical place you remember from childhood? Do you have any special St. Patrick’s Day traditions?

Mythical Monday: Traditions of Twelfth Night by Mae Clair

For those of you familiar with my blog, you’ve probably heard me mention that twelve is my favorite number. It plays into the name of my latest release, TWELFTH SUN, and also happens to be the name of my favorite Shakespeare play, TWELFTH NIGHT.

Given the winter season, I thought I’d use today’s Mythical Monday as a chance to look back on some of the traditions and folklore related to Twelfth Night. Depending on how you’re counting, it occurs on January 5th or 6th (yep, today!) but the traditions are centuries old. For many Christians, it marks the coming of the epiphany and concludes the Twelve Days of Christmas.

Turn back the clock to Medieval England and it marked the end of a winter festival begun on All Hallows Eve. On Twelfth Night, the King and his court traded places with the peasants. All those in attendance shared in a cake baked at the start of the festival. This confection contained a bean, hidden inside. Whoever found the bean was appointed the Lord of Misrule, who presided over the feast, signaling a world turned upside down. At midnight, his rule would end and the normal order was restored.

Elsewhere, farmers would take to their orchards at night with wassail, a hot mulled cider, used in a ritual to invoke a good harvest.  Often a king and queen would be chosen to lead a procession into the orchard. The group would sing loudly, hoping to awaken the spirit of the apple trees. The men would lift the queen into the branches where she’d place pieces of toast that had been soaked in wassail as a gift to the trees. Sometimes one of the men would mask himself as a bull, a symbol of fertility in hopes that the coming year would bring a good harvest.

bigstock-Hot-Mulled-Wine-Spices-And-Nu-51524908In Colonial America, Christmas wreaths were left on the doors until Twelfth Night. When taken down, any edible bits were removed and consumed as part of a feast. Fruit and nuts were common decorations woven through wreaths, and even used on Christmas trees.

Although I’ve never celebrated Twelfth Night with any type of festivities, I can’t help marking its passing in my mind. Perhaps it’s no more than harkening back to something touched by whimsy and magic. After the joy of Christmas and the glitter of New Years, it’s the last winter celebration of note before the long cold stretch of the remaining season. Perhaps I should brew some wassail for the occasion. :)

Here’s hoping your 2014 is off to a great start! Cheers!

Mythical Monday: The Mistletoe Bride by Mae Clair

Hello and welcome to another Mythical Monday! Today I’d like to revisit an urban legend that seemed perfect for the month of December – – that of the Mistletoe Bride.

bigstock-Young-Tender-Bride-44377663According to legend, a young bride suggested a game of hide-and-seek during the merriment of her wedding reception. The groom would be “it” and she and the guests would hide.

Most tales place the time near Christmas, the reception held in an elaborate country home or mansion decorated for the holidays. Several famous houses in England claim origination of the tale, such as Marwell House in Hampshire. Marwell was once owned by the family of Henry VIII’s third wife, Jane Seymour (not that Jane – – although I’m a huge fan!!).

In each retelling, the bride is dressed in her wedding gown, flush with the excitement of the game and the glow of being a new wife. She scampers off to find the perfect hiding place while the other guests join in the fun. After a suitable time, her husband locates each participant but is unable to find his bride. At first he thinks she is only playing, but as the hours wear on and she fails to appear, he grows worried. The guests help him search but are unable to find the missing bride. Eventually, they leave and go home, their hearts heavy with misgiving. Days pass, then weeks, and the heartbroken groom muddles through, forced to go on with his life.

Many years later a cleaning woman stumbles upon a locked trunk in the attic while tidying up. Curious about the contents, she breaks the lock and peers inside. To her horror she discovers the skeleton of a woman clothed in a moldy wedding dress, a piece of mistletoe by her side. Apparently, when the clever bride climbed in the trunk, the lid fell and struck her unconscious, locking her inside. When she awoke, she was trapped, her screams never heard by those who searched for her.

Freed from the trunk by the cleaning lady, her ghost now roams the halls of the mansion, fumbling at locked doors.

This is an extremely old tale that has had several variations in setting and time, but in all, the unfortunate bride is trapped inside the chest. It makes you think twice about hiding in anything with a lock, doesn’t it?

Halloween Happenings by Mae Clair

Did you feel that goose bump? Spooky happenings are afoot as I go traveling today!

design background for Halloween partyFirst up, I’m sharing a piece of flash fiction called A la Carte Kiss about a sexy vampire (yes, the werewolf girl wrote something about a vamp!) as part of Karen Michelle Nutt’s Halloween Flash Fiction Bash.

And because I wanted to offer a Halloween treat I’ll be awarding a $5.00 gift card to Amazon to one commenter. My blog followers have been so wonderfully supportive, so do hop over and enter your name for a shot at it. Aren’t treats fun?

Lest werewolves get short shrift, I’m also on Lyrical Press’s blog participating in Celebrate Paranormal Month with a post about my hunky Civil War colonel, Caleb DeCardian from WEATHERING ROCK.

So grab some apple cider or pumpkin juice and come traveling with me. What do you think of my “owlish” messenger? :D Isn’t he perfect as a Halloween usher?

Celebrate Memorial Day, by Mae Clair

I’m taking a break from Mythical Monday today to celebrate the holiday. Although Memorial Day naturally inspires thoughts of plump hotdogs and juicy hamburgers on the grill and the fun of gathering with family, it’s primarily a time to reflect on those who have given their lives in the service of our country.

Stars and stripesOriginally called Decoration Day, the holiday was first observed on May 30, 1868 when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers in Arlington National Cemetery. Our nation was struggling to heal after the Civil War, and by “decorating” the graves of the fallen with flowers, it was a way to honor those who had perished and keep their memories alive. It wasn’t until 1971 that Memorial Day became an official federal holiday.

In memory of the many brave men and women who have protected our nation through the course of history, may your holiday be blessed with family, friends and fun. If the forecast holds in my area, the day should be mostly sunny and mild, perfect for a cookout and outdoor leisure. I’m eternally grateful and indebted to those who lost their lives in the service of our country so I can safely enjoy such freedoms

Happy Memorial Day!  I hope to see you next Monday when Mythical Monday returns along with all  its inherent weirdness. :)

Mythical Monday: Easter Customs and Traditions by Mae Clair

I’m a day late with my well wishes, but I hope everyone had a happy Easter.

I’m especially fond of this holiday. After Christmas, it’s my favorite. Naturally, it makes me think of the Resurrection, eternal life and forgiveness, but it also resonates with shiny newness and fresh beginnings.

After a long winter, Easter is the gateway to spring.  In many countries, bells are rung on Easter Sunday to herald the arrival of the new season, and drive away evil spirits. Given these same bothersome ghosts were also banished at Christmas and New Year’s, it’s a wonder any managed to hang around. Stragglers or loiterers who didn’t get the message the first two times, they were either extremely stubborn or exsitng on fumes.

If the bell ringing didn’t send them fleeing, painting Easter eggs often did the trick. Why? Because good ghosts like pretty things. So the ‘spirit cavalry’ would arrive, attracted by the colorful eggs and send the troublesome wraiths packing.

And how about our favorite bunny, known to go hippity-hopping about, delivering candy and eggs?

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Is this guy adorable or what? I simply couldn’t resist him when I went searching for stock photography. What a cutie!

He got his start in Germany and was introduced to America in the 1700s by German settlers who colonized Pennsylvania Dutch Country. The ‘bunny’ was actually a hare known as Osterhase. Especially popular with children, Osterhase laid eggs then delivered them to good boys and girls who’d fashioned nests for him from their caps and bonnets.

Perhaps that generated the tradition of Easter bonnets. I have many fond memories of Easter Sundays going to church in my new hat (normally beribboned with silken streamers), frilly dress and white gloves. When church was over, there would be Easter baskets waiting at home. I’m not sure how my parents managed the timing—getting the kids out the door to church, then having the baskets waiting when we returned. Since both parents were with us, we were convinced the Easter Bunny had delivered them.

There must have been some frenzied last minute coordination between my mom and dad, LOL!

I remember the goodies—milk chocolate bunnies, malted eggs, sugary marshmallow peeps, foil-covered chocolate eggs in bright gem colors, and a rainbow of jelly beans. We’d have an egg hunt, then later at dinner, an Easter ham.

Several years ago, I talked my husband into coloring eggs with me. The night before Easter he hid them around the house without telling me. He knew how much I’d loved hunting for eggs as a kid and arranged for me to have my very own hunt on Easter morning. I still remember finding the one he hid in the grandfather’s clock!

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I’d love to hear any fond memories you have of Easter, how you celebrate, or even your favorite Easter candy (mine is marshmallow peeps).

I hope your Easter was filled with fun, whimsy and grace!

Mae Clair, Author: A Valentine’s Day Treat

Elegant Valentine's Day backgroundHappy Valentine’s Day, everyone!
I hope you get to enjoy the day with someone special who makes your heart go pitter-patter. It’s a work day for me, but I’m looking forward to celebrating with my hubby in the evening, including a nice dinner out.

Since it’s Valentine’s Day and romance is on everyone’s hearts, I thought I’d share a glimpse of my upcoming contemporary romance, TWELFTH SUN. This is the blurb I’ve been using:

At thirty-five, Reagan Cassidy is settled in her life with a thriving interior design firm, an upscale condo, two cats, and a goldfish. Then she meets Dr. Elijah Cross, a brilliant but quirky twenty-five year old with a doctorate in marine archeology. When she and Elijah team together to retrieve an nineteenth century journal reputed to have been written by a passenger aboard the doomed schooner, Twelfth Sun, they become embroiled in a treasure hunt hosted by a reclusive billionaire.

Against her better judgment, Reagan falls for the hunky, young Ph.D. who is as skilled in matters of the heart as he is behind the lectern. Throw in several odd-ball competitors out to win the journal, a series of cryptic clues, a saboteur, and a lavish seaside mansion, and Reagan has enough trouble keeping her head straight, let alone her heart. She’d just as soon forget Dr. Gorgeous and his smoldering kisses, but Elijah has other ideas. The only treasure he wants to claim is Reagan’s heart, and he isn’t going to let something as trivial as age stop him.

In the scene I’m sharing, Reagan and Elijah have only recently arrived at the estate of Eric Sothern. Sothern has several other guests for the weekend which Reagan didn’t expect. After introductions and a brief period of socializing, Reagan and Elijah are escorted to their rooms by Sothern’s staff manager, Felix Pellar.

~ooOOoo~

Reagan looked straight ahead. They’d reached the top of the stairwell, giving her the opportunity to shoulder past Elijah. It was in her best interest not to discuss anything further, unless it concerned Rook’s journal.

Pellar led them across the loft and down a shorter hallway, eventually halting before side-by-side rooms. “I trust you’ll find everything acceptable.”

Both doors stood open. Reagan glanced inside, finding them near-mirror images with differing color schemes.

“Mr. Sothern calls them the twins,” Pellar explained, noticing her glance. “They share a Jack-and-Jill bath. For privacy, I suggest you make certain the opposite door is locked when you use the facility.” He departed with a slight incline of his head.

Elijah rolled his eyes. “The facility. Can you believe that guy?”

Reagan paled. The thought of sharing a bathroom with him, even one with locking doors, left her queasy. After the humiliating circumstances of their initial meeting, it was too much like tempting fate.

“What’s the matter?” Elijah propped a shoulder against the doorframe of his room. “Want help unpacking? I could color coordinate your lingerie. Pink and pink.”

Handsome man squatting on a building garden ledgeShe steeled herself, tempted to slap him. The return of his casual cockiness smothered her anxiety. It galled her to think she’d actually thought she might be attracted to him. “You really are a despicable man, Dr. Cross.”

“Is that why you can’t keep your eyes off me?”

Slapping be damned. He needed to be drawn and quartered, then dumped headfirst into a vat of boiling oil. Reagan scrunched her hands into fists. “You arrogant, self-centered, egotistical–”

“Handsome?”

She wanted to scream. He was toying with her, playing a game of aren’t-I-the-calm-clever-one? Exasperated, she shook her head, intending to leave before her composure cracked. Elijah surprised her by grabbing her arm and tugging her against him. He was all muscle and sinew, deliciously lean, wondrously sensual male. Shocked by the unexpected feel of him, she froze.

He lowered his head and claimed her mouth in a soft, exploratory kiss. Warm, gentle. Nothing like she would have expected. Before she could fully comprehend what had happened, he released her with a smile.

“See you at dinner.”

The door snicked closed. Stunned, Reagan stared at the wood. A minute passed before she felt the slow burn of heat on her face. He’d done it again. Made a fool of her; and she’d let him. What was she thinking? The man was a–a–child!

With a Ph.D., a silent voice mocked. He was damned attractive, and she knew it.

Disgusted, she dug her fingernails into her palms. Is this how he planned to charm Livy Franklin? It wasn’t Brody with his blond good looks and suave manner she had to worry about. It was Elijah Cross. Despite her better judgment, despite their age difference, she couldn’t get him out of her head.

Or erase the feel of his lips on hers.

Panicked by the realization, she kicked the door as hard as she could. Pain spiked from her ankle to her kneecap. She spat an unlady-like curse and hobbled in a circle. A glance down the hall told her no one had witnessed her ridiculous fit of temper. All she needed was the arrival of golden-girl Livy or model-perfect Monica to make her humiliation complete. Muttering, she limped into her room and slammed the door. A painting wobbled on the wall.

She glared at it, as if it had questioned her integrity. She could still feel the heat of Elijah’s lips on hers, a sensation that left her unnerved. Did she want to wring his neck, or invite him for an encore? The resurrection of her bewildering attraction sent her over the top, and she did the only childish thing she could think to do. Stomping into the bath, she locked the adjoining door, permanently barring him from the shared room.

~ooOOoo~

As they say, the path to true love is never smooth. I hope you enjoyed this small glimpse of TWELFTH SUN. It’s a departure from the paranormal for me, straight contemporary romance with mystery tossed in for good measure. If you like a treasure hunt with riddles, a hunky brilliant hero, opinionated heroine, and a cast of characters with hidden agendas, I hope you’ll join me in August for its release.  Personally, I can’t wait!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Mae Clair’s Mythical Monday: New Year’s Eve Legends

It’s almost time to bid goodbye to 2012 and usher in a New Year. In the distant past, it wasn’t simply a matter of sharing memories and recalling events. The ‘old year’ had to be conducted out properly so the New Year could bloom and thrive. This was often done by carrying a straw dummy through village streets, setting the effigy on fire, then burying it or drowning it in a stream. Spirits freed by the winter solstice were driven away or destroyed by the act, allowing the New Year to arrive unimpeded.

Villagers might also turn the night into a street masquerade by donning masks and costumes in order to conceal their identity from malevolent forces. Disguised, they embarked on a night of ‘town rattling’ in which they banged on drums, pummeled the sides of houses with sticks, and raised a hullabaloo. The racket sent the ghosts of the old year, already waning and sluggish, fleeing from the commotion. Imagine a combination of Madri Gras and trick-or-treat with a lot of tricking going on.

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If you’ve been a follower of my blog for some time you might recall a post I did in June called “The Magic of Betwixt” about transitional moments. Think dawn, dusk, the stroke of midnight…ephemeral channels between elements of time. I’ve always been drawn to these periods, attracted by the enchanted yet elusive quality of their passage.  Quick-silver moments, they slip by as fleeting as a breath, hovering on the cusp of Otherworld. New Year’s Eve is perhaps the most celebrated betwixt moment of all.

When the clock strikes midnight magic will happen, conjured from the chime of laughter, the hush of a loved one’s kiss, the bewitchment of reminiscing, the exhilaration of fresh possibility. There is no need to ‘rattle away’ the ghosts of the past. We learn from phantoms as well as memories. Time moves forward regardless, but I like to think it enjoys taking us along on the ride.

Finally, I love the song Auld Lang Syne, so I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to share it. I’m not much of a vid person, but this is a hauntingly beautiful rendition performed by the Scottish folk group, The Cast.  Enjoy!

Mae Clair’s Mythical Monday: Christmas Eve Legends

The celebration of Christmas touches us each in different ways. For me, as for many, it is a religious holiday, but it’s also a time for merriment, family, celebration and joy. There is a special magic that occurs at Christmas which transcends description, an enchantment of being that is spiritual, mythical and mystical. The power of believe!

The Eve of Christmas is noted for many old world superstitions and beliefs, among them the idea that the veil between worlds grows thin, allowing the departed to return to the homes of their loved ones.

bigstock-Medieval-Tavern-3878785 lightenedIn Scandinavia, people prepared feasts for the spirits, setting a table laden with holiday fare. They had their own festive celebration first, then before retiring for the night, made certain all the bowls and platters were refilled and heaping with food, jugs were brimming with Yule ale, and a fire burned brightly in the hearth. Many times chairs were wiped clean with a white cloth. The following morning the cleaning process was repeated and, if a bit of earth was discovered, it was proof-positive a visitor from the grave had been there.

Another myth related to Christmas Eve involved animals. At the stroke of midnight many believed animals could speak in human voices.  The downside? Anyone who overheard an animal talk usually met with an untimely end or some other dreadful circumstance. Probably why no one has ever reported hearing Fluffy and Fido shoot the breeze. How I would love to have a one-on-one with a cat!

In Europe it is said cattle kneeled to worship the new-born King, and that bees came together in great numbers to hum a Christmas hymn. Wouldn’t that be something to hear?

The creepiest legend I found involved a blacksmith. One Christmas Eve when a bell tolled, beckoning all the people of his village to midnight mass, he ignored the summons and continued to work. Not long after, a stranger arrived. Tall, but stooped over, he asked the blacksmith to add a nail to his scythe. When the blacksmith finished the task, the stranger told him to summon a priest for the work would surely be his last. The next morning the smitty perished, never realizing he had repaired the scythe of the Grim Reaper.

Surprisingly, there are many legends and superstitions related to this holiday, those above only a sampling of what I found. Given I’m a Myth-monger, I found all of them riveting. One item, however, that is certainly not a myth is the pleasure I receive from sharing these. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

Whether you discover talking animals tonight, friendly phantoms come to call, or just the good cheer of family and friends, may your Christmas Eve be blessed and merry!