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Scotland Banned Christmas

From 1640 to 1958, it was illegal to celebrate ‘Yule Vacations’. Christmas (then called Yule or Nollaig (Gaelic))was banned in Scotland for over 300 years. Christmas was regarded as a celebration held by the Catholic Church. After the reformations to Presbyterianism, Christmas was gradually downgraded until its outright ban. When Act 7, ‘dischairging the Yule vacance’ became legislation on 2nd June 1640, it read:

‘The estatis of parliament, presentlie conveind by his majesties speciall authoritie, wnderstanding that the kirke within this kingdome is now purged of all superstitious observatione of dayes, and heirwith also considering that the keiping of the Yule vacance heath not onlie relatione to that superstitione and may serve to keepe the same in memorie, but also that the keeping of the said Yule vacance heath interrupted the course of justice in this kingdome to the hinderance and heavie prejudice of the leiges thairof, thairfor the saidis estatis have dischairged and simply dischairges the foirsaid Yule vacance and all observation thairof in tymecomeing, and rescindis and annullis all acts, statutis and warrandis and ordinances whatsoevir granted at any tyme heirtofoir for keiping of the said Yule vacance, with all custome of observatione thairof, and findis and declaires the samene to be extinct, voyd and of no force nor effect in tymecomeing. And ordeanes the court and sessione of the colledge of justice and senatouris and memberis thairof to conveene and sit for the administratione of justice without ony interruptione by the foirsaid Yule vacance from the first day of November to the last of Februarie thairefter inclusive yeirlie, and ordeanes the said senatouris and remanent memberis of the said colledge of justice to ryise the said last day of February and to conveene and sit doune againe for administratione of justice to the leiges the first day of June yeirlie, and to ryise the last day of Julii nixt thaireftir inclusive. And also ordeanes the whole remanent judges of inferiour courtis within the kingdome to proceed in thair administratione of justice within thair severall jurisdictiones without any respect to the said Yule vacance and without any interruptione or vacatione by the same Yule vacance, notwithstanding of ony bygone custome of observatione of the said Yule vacance, sieing the samene is now dischairged in maner foirsaid.’

Christmas, as it is now, is less than 100 years old in Scotland. And for many celebrants, it has little to do with Christianity and is predominantly a commercial holiday. There are plenty of seasonal churchgoers who line the pews for Christmas Eve or Christmas Day mass for the sake of their salvation or tradition. Ultimately though, much of the meaning has been lost through rabid consumerism and ego — in direct opposition to the old concepts, regardless of its many guises celebrated globally.

Christianity and Christmas aside, the festival that predates and has stood the test of time, despite changing political and religious landscapes and indoctrination that our children are force-fed — Yule, Nollaig, or Winter Solstice are all celebrated with similar traditions. Though many such as myself, try to limit the greed and heavy consumerist pressures from apparently ‘well-meaning’ folks. As much as followers of the Christian version of Christmas may like to consider certain traditions as ‘theirs’, this is far from true — the feasting, the giving, the tree, colour formations, Yule log burning, the honouring and gratitude, the ‘Angel’ (Goddess), the star (pentacle) are far from Christian in origin. Perhaps that notion, too, feeds into greed and relentless taking.

Today is Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year. When the night dominates, so we reach and crave comfort and warmth — physical and emotional, and we are grateful for those in our lives who gift that to us and we to them. We share food, stories, ‘gifts’, and gratitude. Whatever you do should be enough without the dictatorship and noise of organised religion or the embedded consumerism.

As a practising pagan (who was Catholic schooled as a child), I celebrate the Magick, the cycle of the earth that sustains and gives us life throughout the seasons. Following the rhythms of the moon, just as the tides do.

It doesn’t need to be a show, on display for nothing other than validation of ‘good’ or ‘love’ suffocated in glitter. It can be quiet, calm, and spiritual, as are the roots of gratitude.

You don’t need to bow to the consumerist devaluation of the season by feeding the jelly-belly man in the red suit with pound-signs sparkling in his eyes, full of ‘cheer’. You don’t have to serve and be judged by a bloodthirsty god whose gift is guilt and the threat of damnation if you’re not ‘good’. You don’t have to feed the beast of judgment and hypocrisy, whether from the judges above or those within your own family.

The banning of Christmas was just another form of control, of course. Another religious and political move to dominate. Oh, how we’ve seen so many of those in this wee country! I don’t support the hypocrisy of Christmas being shoved down anyone’s throat either, it may be less than a century old here, but the indoctrination runs deep. The same could be said of the destruction of Indigenous Languages of Scotland — it’s always about control.

Brazen Solstice 2022

December 21, 2022, is the Winter Solstice. It’s the shortest day and the longest night of the year. In Celtic Traditions, Winter Solstice sees the …

Brazen Solstice 2022

2022: The Year of Birds

Hogmanay nears, as does what can barely be avoided — the annual consolidation, the ‘review’ as we step over the next threshold.

It’s been another year of tumultuous news and events stabbing the air in-house and in close proximity. Health issues have arisen in many, some near and dear, some farther but no less dear to me—several with fatal implications, where time somehow runs faster on the clock. My heart has shattered a few times. Such is the way it goes.

Covid hit my house with a bang. I was pregnant, and the baby, Averey, died inside my womb when I had the worst symptoms. Since our second bout in July, long Covid symptoms have persisted, including with my young children. The year that we hoped to grab some social normality has demanded much push.

One of the many benefits of home educating (not home-schooling) is that the pressure and stress on children not to ‘fall behind’ on a prescribed curriculum and being ‘marked’ by ‘poor attendance’ due to health issues beyond control is absent, avoiding undue pressure on my kids’ mental health, to which almost anyone who has been schooled and has health issues can relate. All public services in the U.K., including schools, seem to be on a steep downward slope, faster than ever before. The unrest is palpable. That being said, home educating isn’t all skipping through the daisies! Many days have their challenges, and being the literal full-time parent and educator is tiring — and that was before the long-covid fatigue. Still, we get each other through, and the alternative isn’t an option.

As always, writing has been a constant. Separate from my creative writing, it’s been my introvert-central-management system since childhood. Sketching is too.

Professionally, I have had the pleasure of editing works by some fantastic writers this year — some serious jaw-dropping, inspiring talent. One of the last short stories I edited had me reaching for my inhaler! That author painted a vivid anxiety, paranoia-ridden piece in their protagonist — I felt it all! The subversive angle of the work while playing off the backdrop was skilfully moving. I was in awe. In the massive catalogue of literary genres, the immense skill some horror writers portray is hugely underrated, all due to that simple label ‘horror’. You’ll find the asthma attack-inducing story in KJK Publishing’s The Horror Collection: Sapphire Edition.

This year Ruthann Jagge and I joined forces and created Brazen Folk Horror to share our collaborative works. We have been sharing weekly updates there and have many more ideas for the future. As with this site, readers can subscribe to receive those updates directly in their mailbox. The debut collaborative novel under our exclusive in-house imprint, Delevan House, releases on the 1st of February 2023, and the second book in that series is underway. I’ve shared before about how I adore working with her. We’ve each had much to contend with this year. At times, we’ve both been swimming against a ferocious tide, but we have prevailed and have created something unique from Scottish and Celtic folk inspiration. You better believe my girl and I are indeed Brazen as fuck.

Getting back into academic study has been challenging to make space for, but somehow It’s been working out, in sacrifice of sleep! I passed my first module and started my second towards my English Language and Literature degree. The second part has been immensely inspiring. I am enjoying it far more than I anticipated. It’s ignited old and new passions for my own language, those that I’ve been surrounded with and the broader scope of the world. I’ve been evaluating how this entwines cultural and individual identity. This leg of the course has lit a few fires.

Onto the books published under Clan Witch this year:

Asylum Daughter — my psychological horror novella set in Glasgow, Scotland. I’m proud of how this piece turned out. I loved writing it and got to exorcise the asylum.

The Crash of Verses by Rafik Romdhani — this is Romdhani’s second published collection. His poetry is among my favourites of recent years. If you have not read him, pick up this book. He is an exceptionally skilled modern poet.

Incesticide: Collected Horror — my second collection of short horror fiction. It includes nine stories featuring urban folk horror, a touch of splatterpunk and fairytale horror twisted with BDSM, among other assorted flavours for those who enjoy a taste of different things.

Clan Witch: Found Shadows, my collection of free verse poetry and drabbles. This brings together small pieces scattered with other publishers and some never before published poems. Not all truth and not all fiction.

There have been other written pieces published throughout 2022 in the form of short stories, poetry, articles, forewords and copy for other titles.

What about the birds? Birds have been a significant and symbolic component in my year. Before the baby was born, magpies started frequenting my garden. They never had before. In truth, I was never a fan of the species. (Largely due to a childhood memory or a magpie killing sparrow chicks in a neighbour’s garden. It was such a brutal attack, not for a meal or anything. It seemed to enjoy causing the suffering and instigating horror in the flock of sparrows screaming at the beautiful beastly creature.) Other corvids, such as their cousin, jackdaws, yes. But never the magpie. Of course, going through pregnancy and loss again, this felt strikingly symbolic. For the longest time, there would be one—a dark omen. One for sorrow… as the months have passed, groups of them now frequent the garden along with the smaller birds, which have their daily routines flying in for a feed and natter. Adopting ex-commercial laying hens scheduled to be slaughtered has been tremendously healing. We brought them home less than two weeks after our loss. Building for them and supporting their transition to domestic retirement felt like a productive and helpful use of grief energy. Then the hens have taken in robins. The birds have been inescapable and have become a significant feature of Delevan House too.

Life and creativity can be inseparable, at least elements of each. Twisting tendrils that reach out to be touched and woven into new patterns.

I am wrapping up, as I didn’t intend on doing this kind of update this year! There you have it, a wee mixed-bag summary of 2022. I best be off again, I’m currently hauled up with an unwell small. Her feverish chattering dreams spill out into the dark in a torrent, and I wish, as many parents do — I wish I could soak up the fever and take all the pains away, for always. But life has so much more of that in store. I will have to be content with holding her for as long as I can and as long as she needs.

The darkness is drawing in, approaching the longest of nights, and I wish for what I always do here and the world over, peace.

Natasha )O(

The Making of Delevan House #18

Wrapping Up Brazen Folk Horror presents the print cover wrap for Delevan House. Isn’t it a beauty! The cover image was created by the immensely …

The Making of Delevan House #18

Editing Software

Author Advice

In times when the costs of everything are skyrocketing, and artists have a hard enough time as is. I implore my fellow writers, even if you’re commanding the mammoth task of editing your own work, do not rely on editing software. It’s a mistake that your work and reputation will suffer for. Can your career afford that? Even premier-rated software is a poor substitute for the human eye and mind. This is especially true of fiction works.

I repeat: Editing software is not a substitute for an editor. It cannot take the place of an editor.

As a freelance editor, I often take on projects where I am the sole editor. Many independent writers, independent publishers and small presses can only afford one editor, whether in-house or by hiring another independent like Word-Refinery. This makes the process different to large house publishers, where multiple rounds are passed through multiple eyes, which incurs greater costs.

In the business of freelance editing, this is where, as an independent, editing software can be a helpful tool. To act as another pair of ‘eyes’ for the independent editor after they have completed their edits.

This is how I utilise such software – as a tool at the end of the more critical manual edit.

This software does not understand tone and the expansive varieties of Englishes. These softwares lack awareness of genre targets. They lack the ability to support the development of a text so that it reads in a way that leaps from the page and is not ‘flat.’ These softwares often apply sensitivity alerts which can strip a piece of its integrity, style and diminish the author’s voice.

Even if you cannot afford to hire an editor, editing software is not a substitute for an editor, even at a premium rate.

Balanced Discrimination?

In this world of hyped-up political correctness, labelling and the push for artists to emotionally support, woo, and pamper the egos of a (potential) audience even before they have set foot in an exhibition, opened a book or hit play on that movie. Direct Discrimination thrives loud and proud with every cry for mythical balance through forced diversity.

Charades masquerading as ‘discussions’ that only bend one way do nothing but deepen discrimination such cryers profess to want to correct.

I wonder, once the arbitrary scale tips, what would they go for next?

Honestly, in the real world, there are far more significant problems to be concerned with. Still, my little blether to the void here will focus on the area that prompted my little rant- horror literature – eventually.

Before that, though, be warned, according to an online stranger who was ignorantly assumptive, judgmental, sexist and racist towards me, I was also thrown the mighty slur of the day with regard to my input in a ‘discussion’ (see point above. I know better, but we all fuck up sometimes) about female horror authors. The insult that screams (of the thrower) a lack of discussion skills and intellect… a ‘Karen’.

Yes. Because I disagreed, I’m a Karen….

First time I’ve had that one. Which made me ponder, was this nameless individual compounding the sexism they had already expressed? A Karen? Is it like calling someone a Cunt as a slur, specifically for a female? And female to female, that reeks of anti-feminism. Somewhat backwards for folk screaming for ‘progress’.

Anyway, I decided to ‘look it up’. Since it’s slang, I had a wee look on Wikipedia. Given the context, I really had no desire to do any real academic research with this, even as a student of linguistics. Wikipedia describes ‘Karen is a pejorative term for a white woman perceived as entitled or demanding.… The term is often portrayed…depicting white women who use their white privilege to demand their own way.’ It goes on, ‘the term increasingly appeared in media and social media as a general criticism of middle class white women,’ – so racist, sexist and classist! A bit much, eh?

If my name was Karen, I might be extra peeved at this derogatory and discriminatory slang. Since this person made assumptions about my race, class and gender that had the nameless sharpen their pitchfork and wield the mighty ‘Karen’, it says far more about them than it does me.

The insult also reeks of that well-documented American arrogance and ignorance — one that seems indiscriminate of gender, race, socioeconomic status, political and religious affiliation. Breaking news to those that fall into that bracket: your country is not the centre of the universe, the world is bigger than your echo-chamber. Funny, apparently those that disagree must “do better”. Being from one of the most deprived areas of Scotland, where poverty, crime, gang and drug problems flourish and the lifespan of the female is lower than anywhere else in the U.K. Having fought and lived through prejudice and discrimination from both ‘my own’ and beyond, and that’s only a tiny peek of the tip of the iceberg. Well, to say I scoffed would be an understatement. And I’m not going to go into the rest concerning the cultural and sexual trials. Because none of the personal anecdotes should matter in this context, none of it makes one person’s viewpoint more or less valid than another’s when it comes to how we choose art. Such blatant judgment and ignorance certainly detracts credibility; the nameless ‘wordsmith’ made a right fool of themselves. But hey, that’s the majority of social media, right. Hmmm, a scale that needs correcting?

Don’t make the mistake of thinking I’m overly sensitive to name-calling. My history has ensured my thick-skin. I am just a bit of a wormhole thinker. As I mentioned, another term often used in the U.K. is – Cunt, another pejorative. As a slang word for vulva, it naturally wields strong female connotations that are intended to be derogatory. I used to cringe if I read or heard the word ‘cunt’. But that was a long time ago. My consideration and view has changed; being a woman, a feminist and sexual, I can’t see anything derogatory about the female anatomy. It’s a marvel. The cunt is a damn mighty and beautiful piece of our biology. The cunt is to be respected. She is a place of many wonderful things — life’s most intense pleasures and, indeed, a gateway to life itself. In other words, All hail the cunt!

I can’t deny that my turn on the word was also influenced by seeing the Vagina Monologues in Edinburgh many years ago.

The following is a post I shared on social media that echoes the points fuelling the anti-feminist, racist, classist and sexist ‘insult’:

More often than not, when I view a painting — I see the painting BEFORE the artist who created it. This applies to photography, sculpture, literature, music etc.

I want to see what someone is portraying with their art first. Then I may be intrigued to want to know more about the creator behind the art – information that they choose to make available. As a consumer of art, I’m not entitled. None of us are.

I don’t look for the personal details of the creator before deciding if they are worthy for me to look at their art. Most folks don’t. Hell, imagine if we all ‘researched’ every creative involved in a movie before hitting play…

I am not going to seek out an artist based on what they look like, their gender, sex, cultural background, beliefs, heritage, politics, religion, who they fuck…

Now, I’m not saying that these things don’t filter into what is created, but none of those details makes a person’s art ‘good’! Nor does knowing them make you a ‘better’ consumer or person, even if it feeds your ego to think that it does.

Oh, and I am ‘part’ of several ‘marginalised’ groups; I will never use any of that to get eyes on anything I create because not everything is public property.

Now it’s an opinion, a fact of how I consume art. Life is extremely short. When reaching into something such as horror fiction for fun, leisure, enjoyment, and escapism, why is there this sudden expectation to ‘balance my reading list’ for personal attributes of author ‘diversity’ sake? I want to be entertained. Perhaps if I wanted to fuck them, I’d be more concerned with their sex, gender and orientation. Then it would hold relevance.

Perhaps art and artists need anonymity to thrive in a world that feels increasingly entitled to more personal details to feed this absurd mythical ethical balancing act for little egos.

The Making of Delevan House #15

Converging Paths BrazenFolkHorror I share many old and new stories at home. As a family, we love to read aloud together. A habit I’ve shared and …

The Making of Delevan House #15

Incesticide: Collected Horror

NEW RELEASE

Incesticide: Collected Horror has almost emerged! Due to some interruptions within the industry and the panic rumour mills spinning, I decided to get things placed early to ensure the print edition launched in time with the digital. Well, this strike was swift, and the print editions are now (quietly) available ahead of the official release of December 14th.

The collection features nine unique short stories, each followed by a few words on how they came to be.

I painted the artwork for the book. Taking loose inspiration from the book’s namesake – Nirvana’s Incesticide cover art by Kurdt Cobain. I was delighted with how the painting turned out, and have created some exclusive products featuring the print available on my Etsy store.
Thank you to everyone who had preordered. I hope you enjoy my little morsels of horror.

If you fancy a listening to me reading a story from the book, Fuckin’ Maggots is featured on my Youtube.