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Lifestyle

Santería, The Ones Who Worship Saints

Deteriorating skull in a tomb
Photography by Melanie Martin

Santería is another religion that is shrouded in secrecy and often regarded with fear—some deem the practice to be Satanic, but it’s really just Santería. Truth be told, there are a lot of aspects of this religion that may rub people the wrong way—animal sacrifice is not as high on the list as things such as the use of human bones or even dead fetuses during a ritual, but the latter two are considered a rarity among fringe practitioners. Suffice it to say, these practitioners would be less than forthcoming about their uses for ingredients that might label them as evil. Nevertheless, seeing as it’s associated with even a few of the practitioners it’s definitely worth mentioning here.

Another African-rooted religion, Santería is typically combined with Catholicism, as are many religions that made the journey from Africa to America during the days of slavery. Like voodoo and hoodoo, enslaved Africans were forced to convert to a western religion—in this case, Catholicism. Santeras saw the similarities of the Catholic saints to the Orishas which were the deities that they had worshipped before being taken from their own lands. Aside from the Catholic influences that are found within the religion, Santeras believe in only one god, Olodumare, but the Orishas are the deities that represent different aspects of nature, there are said to be over 400 orishas within the religion.

Much like voodoo, ancestor veneration is a huge facet of the religion, this is done to honor those who have passed on and recognize them as guides that can help influence their lives for the good or for the bad. During traditional rituals, there is an abundance of drumming, dancing, and interacting with spirits. Unlike traditional western religions, these rituals are not confined within the walls of a church or temple, they can occur nearly anywhere.

What’s with the Animal Sacrifice?

Rooster, potential animal sacrifice
Photography by Kazi Faiz Ahmed Jeem

Animal Sacrifice is actually a common theme within Santería, but it’s not just about killing for the sake of killing. Santeras use animal sacrifice as an offering to the Orishas during major ceremonies. The blood is considered an important offering to the Orishas, where the actual animal is eaten after the ritual—so while some may consider it awful, it actually serves a purpose to them in their religious activities. It’s definitely a sore subject for those who may not understand the practice and indeed caused quite a stir when a man in Texas decided to fight for his freedom to practice his religion without undue burden from the law.

Is Santería Dangerous?

Mural, Santeria the worship of Saints
Photography by Gerhard Lipold

It really depends on who you ask, as can be expected, Santeras would likely not agree which is fair. They’re a federally recognized religion as of 1993 after a case to ban animal sacrifice was overturned as it was said to specifically target Santeras and their religious practices. There are however some aspects of the religion that some may construe as dangerous—as well as other practices that are indeed dangerous to the health of those who partake. One of these dangerous aspects of Santería is that at one time it was considered a fairly common practice to use liquid Mercury in ritual, which as can be expected led to Mercury poisoning and has since become a less frequent ritual substance.

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Featured Haunted Places Lifestyle

Scotland’s Haunted Castles – By Lynsey Mitchell

Scotland is a country known for its majestic castles. With a history that dates way back, people lived in Scotland for at least 8,500 years before Britain’s history records started. It is one of the oldest countries and Europe and with that comes a lot of history and ghost stories! The castles of Scotland have seen more life, death, and tragedy than any building in North America. So it’s no wonder they have a few hauntings. Almost every castle in Scotland has a ghost story or two or more from over the centuries. These are some of the most haunted castles in Scotland which also makes them my favourites!

Crathes Castle, Banchory

Crathes Haunted Castle, Banchory Scotland Image

There are many sightings of a Green Lady in Scottish castles. No one would know if it’s the same Green Lady or not. A popular sighting tends to be Crathes Castle, where many people have been said to have seen a green lady cradling a baby. When Crathes Castle was renovated in the 1800s, there were some children’s bones found beneath the fireplace in the room that has long been known as the Green Lady’s room. Who these belong to has never been discovered.  One theory about the Green Lady is that she has come from an incident where Lady Agnes, widow of the Laird, was an overbearing, obsessive mother to her son, Alexander. When he grew and formed a relationship with a common young lady named Bertha, Lady Agnes was not happy with the idea of sharing her son with this young woman. When Alexander was away on a long journey, Lady Agnes decided to poison Bertha. Alexander returned to the news that she had passed away. 

In an effort to comfort him, Lady Agnes prepared him a meal. However, when he reached for a goblet, she snatched it away, realising that this was the same goblet that had held the poison she used to kill Bertha. Alexander was furious with his mother. 

When Bertha’s parents arrived to collect her remains, Lady Agnes was screaming “She comes! She comes!” and was struck dead within minutes. 

However, the Green Lady has never been identified as either Agnes or Bertha. Some say that Bertha herself has been sighted on the anniversary of her death. Some believe that the Green Lady is the ghost of a servant who disappeared after getting pregnant. 

Falkland Palace, Fife 

Falkland Haunted Palace, Fife Scotland

Before Falkland Palace was constructed, it was a hunting lodge. When it was expanded, it was owned by The Earls of Fife – Clan MacDuff. 

Falkland Palace was apparently loved by Mary Queen of Scots, and some have claimed to have seen her ghost around there. It is said that if you stare through a window in the Queen’s bedroom, you’ll see a sinister face staring back at you. 

There is also the ghost of the White Lady, who will disappear through a wall once she catches you staring at her.

Another ghost has been sighted in the Tapestry Gallery, known as the Grey Lady and she can be seen anxiously pacing. It is said that her lover left for battle and never returned, but to this day, she is still waiting. 

Several staff members have reported seeing the Grey Lady. One of whom – a gardener- has reported seeing her wandering around the drive of the castle. Another experience from the same staff member was when she and a friend were in Lord Bute’s room. While they had reason to be in there, they found that they felt uncomfortable, as though they were intruders. 

Edinburgh Castle, Edinburgh

Edinburgh Haunted Castle, Edinburgh Scotland

Edinburgh Castle is said to be one of the most haunted places in Scotland. Many of the former prisoners are said to haunt the dungeons to this day. One unfortunate prisoner had chosen to hide in a dung barrel, thinking that the barrow would be wheeled down the Royal Mile and he could escape. However, he had not considered how the dung was disposed of and he was thrown down the slopes of the castle to his death. Many visitors claim to experience a feeling that someone is trying to push them, accompanied by an unpleasant smell. 

There is also the ghost of the piper boy. This dates back several centuries to when there were tunnels found under the castle. The entrance was so small, that the piper boy was the only one who could fit. He was instructed to investigate where the tunnels lead, but to play his bagpipes as he travelled, so that everyone knew where he was. As he wandered the tunnels, multiple people were listening for the sounds of his bagpipes, but the sound of piping stopped somewhere near Tron Kirk, a church on the Royal Mile. There were several attempts to find the boy, but there was never any trace of him. The city council ordered the tunnel to be sealed, but late at night, some people still say that they hear the sound of a single bagpipe playing from beneath their feet. 

 A headless drummer was seen shortly before Oliver Cromwell attacked the castle in 1650. While the sightings are rare, often people claim to hear the sounds of drums inside the castle. It is said that his appearance would come as a warning when the castle was about to come under attack. No one knows who the ghost may be, or how he died, but a common belief is that he was beheaded. 

Janet Douglas, Lady of Glamis is the tragic woman who was accused of trying to poison the king and of practising witchcraft. In 1537, she was burned at the stake, while her 16-year-old son watched. She was one of thousands of victims of Scotland’s witch hunting. It was shortly after her death that apparitions of (another) Grey Lady began to happen at the castle. She is often spotted wandering the halls and weeping. There have also been reports of knocking sounds, which some believe could be the sounds of workmen building the structure that killed Janet. 

If you love horror and all things scary, check out author Lynsey Mitchell’s blog -> Lynsey’s Awesome Horror Blog

Categories
Horror Books Lifestyle

Stoking the Fire of Stoker’s Legacy

Abraham “Bram” Stoker may not be the father of Gothic Horror like his predecessor Edgar Allan Poe, but this Irish author is known to have mastered the art of writing Gothic Horror in his lifetime. Known mostly for being the personal assistant of Sir Henry Irving, Stoker is probably one of the most underrated, yet famous authors of horror culture; known mostly for his 1897 Gothic horror novel Dracula, he was actually a very prolific author throughout his lifetime.

He is tall and heavily built, with a sandy beard and good-natured blue eyes. Speaking of his rather striking name, he said: “I was named Abraham Stoker, but since my very young childhood I have been called Bram–and Bram I have let it remain.”

The Constitution, Atlanta, GA, January 26, 1896

Life Before His Writing Career

Born on November 8, 1847, on the north side of Dublin, Ireland in Clontarf to Abraham and Charlotte Mathilda Blake Thornley, Bram Stoker was the third child of seven. His father was a civil servant and his mother was a charity worker and writer, who told him horror stories as a child and may have been the first to influence his writing later on in life. During the majority of his childhood, Bram Stoker was bedridden with a still unknown illness until he started school at seven. When he finally started school, he made a complete recovery from his childhood illness and by that time had matured into a thoughtful young boy. In Stoker’s own words he was, “naturally thoughtful, and the leisure of long illness gave opportunity for many thoughts which were fruitful according to their kind in later years.” Schooling during his youth was at a private school run by Reverend William Woods.

Despite his frailty as a child, after his recovery, he grew up without any other debilitating illness and even excelled in multiple sports later on during his university years. Bram attended Trinity College in Dublin from 1864 to 1870, when he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree, then later pursued a Master of Arts in 1875; his school portfolio shows he was the auditor of the College Historical Society and the president of the University Philosophical Society, where he wrote a paper titled Sensationalism in Fiction and Society.

The Legacy of Stoker’s Name

When Bram attended college he began working as an Irish civil servant and also picked up freelancing work in journalism and critiquing theatre. Not having predestined himself to become a writer Stoker was, at an early point in his career, highly interested in theatre. During the time in which he worked for the Irish Civil Service, he actually became a critic for the Dublin Evening Mail, which was co-owned by Sheridan Le Fanu who at the time was an author of Gothic tales.

Even though theatre critics were, at the time, not incredibly popular people, Stoker attracted the attention of people with the quality of his reviews. One fateful December day in 1876, after praising the performance of Hamlet by Henry Irving at the Theatre Royal in Dublin, he was invited to dine with Irving at the Shelbourne Hotel. This dinner marked the beginning of a prolific friendship between Stoker and Irving. Not long after becoming friends with Henry Irving, Stoker met and subsequently fell in love with his future wife, an aspiring actress by the name of Florence Balcombe. Florence was a celebrated beauty who had, at one point, been courted by Oscar Wilde. Wilde and Stoker had been classmates during their days at Trinity College; despite being upset with Balcombe’s decision to marry Stoker, the two men eventually resumed polite exchange.

Not many know how Mr. Bram Stoker came to be associated with the fortunes of Sir Henry Irving. It was in this wise, says a contemporary: Sir Henry , when on a visit to Dublin, was invited to a supper party, and during the course of the evening was induced to recite his in his thrilling way “The Dream of Eugene Aram.” One of his auditors, a young man with a brilliant reputation at Trinity College, was so affected by the tragedian’s delivery that he burst into tears. Henry Irving asked the young man to call on him the next morning, and then and there made him an offer, which was accepted to the mutual advantage of both. The young man was Mr. Bram Stoker.

The Leeds Times, Leeds, UK, July 13, 1985

The Lyceum Theatre

During the year 1878, Bram began working in London as Henry Irving’s secretary at the Lyceum Theatre. In December of that same year, Stoker and Balcombe were married and their nuptials were reported the next day on December 5, 1878, by The Freeman’s Journal and Daily Commercial Advertiser. Four days later, on December 9, Stoker and his new bride moved to England to join Henry Irving, a man which he greatly idolized. After their move to London, Stoker accepted the offer to become the acting manager for Irving, then ultimately became the business manager of Irving’s Lyceum Theatre in London, a job which he held for twenty-seven years.

A little over a year later on December 31, 1879, Stoker and his wife had a child, Irving Noel Thornley Stoker, then Bram published his first book. Through Stoker’s work with Irving, he began to have access to London’s high society and made some of his most important professional acquaintances, including Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, to whom he was distantly related. During his employment under Irving, who was the most famous actor at the time, he managed the most successful theatre in London and was consequently a quite well known, albeit busy man.

Despite having traveled the world with Irving as his manager, Stoker never once visited Eastern Europe, the place in which his most famous novel was set. Instead, he visited and thoroughly enjoyed the United States and accompanied Irving to the White House twice, where he met William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt. As evidence of his appreciation of the United States, Stoker actually set two of his novels in the United State. He happened to have the opportunity to meet Walt Whitman as well, who he held great admiration for as a writer.

The Legend Started with Slains Castle in Cruden Bay

The magic happened when Stoker traveled to Cruden Bay, where the Slains Castle sits, it is rumored that this castle was actual the visual inspiration for Bram Stoker during this phase of his writing career. He began the early chapters of Dracula in Cruden Bay, in 1985 while in residence at the Kilmarnock Arms Hotel, where his signatures in the guestbook from 1894 and 1895 are still present. Stoker also penned two other novels that were based on Cruden Bay, The Watter’s of Mou (1985) as well as The Mystery of the Sea (1902).

Portrait of Bram Stoker in 1906
Portrait of Bram Stoker in 1906

History As an Author

The writing career of Stoker will be something that we delve into greater detail in the next installment of our Dead Author Dedication for the month, but it’s worth noting that despite Stoker’s productive career as a writer, he’s really only known for his classic Dracula (1897). Upon the finality of his famous novel, Dracula, he dedicated it to one of his closest friends, by the name of Hall Cain, whom he had met in London. During the period in which he had started to write his novels, he was also a part of the literary staff of The Daily Telegraph in London. Other than his novel publications, after Henry Irving’s death in 1906, he ended up managing productions at the Prince of Wales Theatre.

At the End of His Life

Stoker finally succumbed to multiple strokes and died of exhaustion on April 20, 1912, at Number 26 St. George’s Square–although some biographers believe it also had something to do with tertiary syphilis. His ashes were placed on display at Golders Green Crematorium in Northern London

Categories
Indie Horror Lifestyle NA Scary Movies and Series

Sweet Taste Of Souls

New supernatural horror release “Sweet Taste Of Souls” brings together some of our favorite horror elements. Creepy town – check, Mysterious disappearances – check, souls eaten – check. Watch the trailer below for a quick taste of what is in store.

Flying Dolphin Productions’ new social thriller, SWEET TASTE OF SOULS, written by Felicity Mudgett, produced by Bee Pedersen, and directed by Terry Ross.

When four struggling indie band members stop at a lonely roadside café for an innocent slice of pie, they find themselves trapped in the deranged café owner’s tantalizing art collection and must battle a sinister force with an appetite for souls.

Synopsis:
Nerves are frayed after an all-night drive when Nate, Kyle, Wendy, and Lily spot “Elle’s Kountry Kitchen” in the decaying rural town of Angel Falls and decide to make a stop for cherry pie.

The eerie café and Ellinore’s disturbing demeanor are unnerving enough, but the café also displays an unsettling photo gallery – of previous wayfarers all in odd, stiffly posed positions. In fact, the people in the photos are alive, trapped in their little photo prisons, free to move about except when customers are in the shop.

A sinister force also lurks in the cursed café. It directs Ellinore’s sad, broken mind and orchestrates her bizarre photography “collection.”

When a problem with one of the photographs causes Ellinore to drown its captives in a fit of rage, she composites a new photo with the images she secretly took of her last visitors. As the replacement shoots off the printer, Nate, Kyle, Wendy, and Lily suddenly get “disappeared” out of their van. They awake to find themselves in a stark photo prison. Through their one glass wall, they see the outside world – the empty café they just left. They are the new exhibits and must escape before Ellinore’s escalating temper causes her to replace them as well.

But some dangers are even more penetrating than death: Evil is always hungry for souls. It cultivates terror, manipulates fear, and seduces with revenge. Nate’s good heart understands and resists, but Lily’s heart is tender, traumatized, and vulnerable – an irresistible prize, like Ellinore’s, before Evil first seduced her.

For more information:
https://www.sweettasteofsouls.com/

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