Cherry Bounce

I’m a passionate person—some of my passions include history, reading/writing, and cooking. In my opinion, life’s even better when those passions can be combined.

In my novel, Klara’s Journey, I dedicate significant time to cooking and meal preparation. This is because food is an integral part of any culture. And I’m not the only author to do this. Harry Potter has chocolate frogs and Bertie Botts Every Flavor Jellybeans. Outlander has cherry bounce.

In April, NPR reported that archeologists excavating the cellar at Mount Vernon found two glass jars filled with a mystery liquid and cherries. Archaeologist Jason Boroughs estimates that the cherries were probably picked by slaves sometime between 1758 and 1776, then stored and buried to be served later. Apparently, the liquid inside smells like cherry blossoms. More importantly, Boroughs admits there’s a possibility it’s a cherry-infused alcohol. So, while the archeologist might not be willing to confirm it just yet, my best bet is this is 250-year-old cherry bounce. Continue reading

The Celtic Year

Ever since learning to walk upright, man has stared at the horizon, watching the sun rise and set.  Early attempts at tracking time often tried reconciling solar and lunar movements as each marched across the sky. Some attempts were more successfully than others, resulting in the formation of calendars.

Sun’s Position on Horizon

One of the best-known calendars attributed to the Celts is the Coligny calendar, whose name derives from the location where it was discovered—Coligny, France. The calendar is of Gaulish origin and dates to the 2nd century. Despite being in fragments, the calendar has been reconstructed with confidence due to its regular composition, which lays out a five-year cycle of 62 months.

Each Celtic year contains twelve lunar months, divided into just two seasons, summer and winter. Each month is further divided into two fortnights, the first always containing 15 days, the second containing either 14 or 15 days depending on the length of the month.

The calendar is further adjusted with an intercalary month every 2.5 years, so the lunar cycle of the months also aligns with the solar year. Unlike the Gregorian calendar, which resets in the winter, the Coligny calendar begins and ends in the spring. Continue reading

National Sticky Bun Day

Writers need all kinds of tools to craft believable stories. One of my favorite facets of research for my books was learning about period cooking. To that end, I even purchased a cookbook written by archeologists who reconstructed recipes based off the remnants of food found near cooking fires.

Everyone loves sweets and the ancient Gauls (Celts) were no exception. Deep in the middle of book 3, Klara makes sticky buns to celebrate Imbolg, a Celtic holyday. Both Imbolg and National Sticky Bun Day occur in February.

Coincidence? Probably.

However, in honor of National Sticky Bun Day, I’ve produced a recipe for sticky buns adapted from a stone age recipe in found in “A Culinary Journey Through Time.” The original recipe “Barley Balls with Wild Fruit and Berries” appears on page 95. Continue reading

The Celtic Calendar

As early as the neolithic era, humans sought ways to mark the passage of time and predict celestial events. Their methods, no matter how carefully thought-out, were often thwarted by the very solar and lunar cycles they wished to track. When seasonal drift occurred and the months no longer aligned with the weather, people simply adjusted the calendar or adopted an entirely new one.

Seasonal Drift: a gradual misalignment of seasons and calendar dates, owing to the calendar not accurately capturing the length of the solar year.

An example of this occurred in 1582. Pope Gregory XIII instituted the new Gregorian calendar to correct an error in the Julian calendar that was causing Easter celebration to occur at the wrong time. As a result, 10 days were skipped so that Thursday, October 4th was followed by Friday, October 15th.

The world is filled with calendars: Chinese calendar, Hebrew calendar, Iranian calendar, and Buddhist calendar, to name a few. There’s an even longer list obsolete calendars, some of which include, Attic calendar, Old Icelandic calendar, and the Coligny calendar. When calendars no longer serve their purpose, they are abandoned. In its place, something new is adopted. The modern pagan movement is not immune to this pressure. Continue reading

Summer Cleansing w/Taranis

The month of July is often referred to as the month of the Thunder Moon. Celts venerated all natural phenomena, so it’s not surprising that they had a thunder god. Taranis, whose name literally means thunderer, is that god.

While there are only seven inscriptions specifically to Taranis, they are spread across a surprisingly large area, including: Britian, France, Germany, and Yugoslavia. However, there are plenty of monuments dedicated to a sky deity scattered throughout Gaul that depict both the sun-wheel and thunderbolts. Taken together, this indicates that Taranis’s cult was both widespread and well known.

Given the sun-wheel and thunderbolt’s repeated linkages, and owing to Taranis’s later conflation with Jupiter, it’s possible that he had power over all celestial activities, including snow, wind, and rain. This time of year, summer storms blow in, lighting up the heavens and showering us with rain. In agricultural areas and places suffering from wildfires, these storms often have a cleansing effect, knocking smoke and dust from the sky. If you, like the smoky skies, could use a little cleansing and clarity, call on Taranis. Continue reading

Celtic Cat Myths and Legends

I’m in the process of putting in a fairy garden. At the outset, I did not realize it would be a multi-year process.

Last summer, I removed enormous juniper shrub. It was easily 30 feet across. But on July 19th my cats were poisoned. Speculation and conjecture filled the neighborhood with everyone chiming in with a new theory about how or why it happened. Tabby pulled through, but Storm died.

I buried Storm at the site of my future fairy garden. After creating a cat-sized mound over the grave, I told my son, “This will be Storm’s Garden. Her ghost will probably spend all day catching fairies and ripping off their wings.”

The problem with that sentiment is, as onery as Storm was, fairies like cats. In Scotland and Ireland there are legends of cat-sìth—mythical fairy cats. Continue reading

Natural Egg Dyes

The Ostara Sabbat marks the end of the dark half of the year. In the Anglo-Saxon calendar, Eostremonath was named after Eostre (Ostara in Old High German). Eostre is maiden goddess of dawn and the spring. At the equinox a feast is celebrated in her honor, replete with offerings of colored eggs. Exchanging eggs was thought to ensure abundant crops in the coming autumn and Saxons exchanged colored eggs as a talisman representing new life. The eggs were consumed in Eostre’s honor.

A favorite way to celebrate the holiday is by dying eggs. If you feel adventurous, skip the dye kits available at the grocery store and use vegetable dyes. It’s a fun way to connect with our ancestors and lets kids of all ages feel like a potion master in their own kitchen!

Continue reading

Klara’s Journey on Kickstarter

I just launched Klara’s Journey on Kickstarter! On the Kickstarter website you’ll find:

The trailer was created by Damonza and is absolutely amazing. You definitely don’t want to miss it!

In addition to the trailer, there’s a video describing the project, my project budget, images of the map and the calendar created for the novel. You’ll even get a peek at the initial inspiration for the novel. (Hint: It started with a song!) I even posted the first editorial review . . . and it’s good. Really, really good!

Kickstarter allows you to pre-order both ebooks and paperbacks. Books will ship the last week of May. As a bonus, all paperbacks will be autographed before they’re shipped.

Pre-order on Kickstarter today!


Yuletide Traditions

Early Germanic calendars were lunisolar, meaning they combined both lunar and solar aspects. In the Runic calendar, the New Year begins with the first full moon after the winter solstice. The first month of the year is Aefterra Geola (After Yule). The last month of the old year begins with prior full moon and was called Aerra Geola (Early Yule).

Multiple sources attest to the importance of the winter solstice in determining the New Year. However, it’s less clear as to whether or not Yule was celebrated specifically on the solstice. Since the Germanic calendars were set according to the timing of the solstice, there is a good argument in favor of holding Yule in conjunction with the solstice. However, there are other traditions to consider. Continue reading

Halloween History

Every autumn folks become enamored with “witchcraft.” When the annual autumnal uptick is accompanied by the release of a popular book or movie like Hocus Pocus or Harry Potter interest in the occult skyrockets.

A surprising variety of traditions fall under the umbrella “witchcraft,” which encompasses everything from Sami Shamanism to Haitian Voodoo. You can see lists of the various religions HERE and HERE. To the best of my knowledge, Halloween isn’t a holy day for any of them.

Fictional stories, like the Harry Potter series, bear no resemblance to actual pagan religions. Sure, pagans enjoy dressing up and handing out candy as much as our Christian brethren. But that’s generally the extent of our participation. The influx of folks seeking admittance to “secret Halloween rituals” are left confused and disappointed. The only hocus pocus they’re likely to find on Halloween will be playing in theaters.

Few people realize Halloween’s origins are purely Christian and its customs uniquely American. Continue reading