Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Timeless Tales Going on Hiatus (possibly looking for new ownership!)

(Written by Tahlia Kirk, founder of Timeless Tales Magazine)

I've been avoiding this announcement for months, but it's finally time. The TLDR is: I'm putting Timeless Tales into long term hibernation. I'm strongly considering shutting it down permanently or transferring ownership to someone new. 

The backstory

Hades and Persephone cover

This is what's been going on with me behind the scenes: Back in March 2020, I was woefully behind with responding to Hades & Persephone submissions. I'd just landed a promotion at work that exponentially increased my responsibilities. When the big Covid lockdown hit, I was relieved beyond words for an excuse to slough off my social engagements for a month or two and focus on the magazine. 

After Hades & Persephone published in Summer 2020, I gave myself permission to take a nice long break. We'd decided that 2021 would be the year we'd move from Austin, TX to Sacramento, California and I wanted my entire focus to be on moving. 

Confident that I'd return to magazine business after we moved, I announced our Arabian Nights issue and left the submission window open for 9 months, making it very clear I wouldn't respond until April 2021 at the earliest. It was good plan and theoretically should have worked. 


We bought a house and moved to California in February. In April, I received another promotion at work. Although, I needed to start reading Arabian Nights submissions, lockdown was finally ending and I was eager to get back into the world again. I was fully vaxxed and ready to PAR-TAY! Surely those submissions could wait a little longer?

We bought a house!

Tahlia Kirk

For a while, I thought I could compensate for the lost time by spending my extra income on expanding our staff. But there was only so much I could easily outsource and it takes time to find and train new people. 

Over the past 10 years, I've managed to keep TT running because my day jobs have historically been dull. Those jobs gave me large chunks of downtime that I filled with magazine work. However, the entry level tech writing job I accepted in 2019 has somehow blossomed into an actual career. I have a team full of nerdy coworkers. I've been managing a small group of technical writers. I'll soon be getting promoted AGAIN to become our writing team's first full-time trainer. Huzzah! 

My celebratory flowers in our freshly painted dining room

Celebratory flowers for my promotion

This is all wonderful news for me, but not great for the magazine. I needed to stop kidding myself and take a hard honest look at when I'd have time for the magazine again. I've already waited too long for that future day when I'll actually have free time again. The truth is that the magazine simply isn't compatible with my lifestyle anymore.

So while I'm sad to say goodbye to TT, at least it's not out of any personal tragedy. And who knows, I may find a way to either bring it back someday or stay involved after it finds a new owner. 

About Arabian Nights

If you submitted a piece to TT for our Arabian Nights issue, you should have received an email from me about a month ago, politely returning it to you unread. I did my best to email everyone who submitted, but if I somehow missed you, I apologize that you're just hearing this news now.

The future

Originally, I didn't want to announce my hiatus without a game plan for the future in place. But it's become clear that I'm not ready to make a final decision on anything yet. I'm currently in talks with a potential new owner that has a lot of potential, but I want to take time to explore my options

Right now, I'm open to fully transferring ownership to the right person/team, but I'm also not opposed to staying involved in a much more scaled-back capacity. 

If you have ideas or an interest in running Timeless Tales, send me an email at Do NOT leave a comment on this post. I don't get email notifications for comments, so I may never read it. 

Here are some of my basic qualifications for What I'm Looking For In a New Owner:
  1. Computer skills: 
    1. Google Suite: You need to be comfortable using Gmail, Google Docs, Calendar, Google Drive, etc.
    2. Website updates. TT's website is run on Wix, so no coding knowledge necessary, but you must understand basic SEO concepts and generally be good at tinkering with tech.
    3. Social Media: Even if you hire someone else to handle the daily churn (which I highly recommend!), you should have an understanding of how to write content that boosts engagement. 
  2. Disposable income: TT's Patreon page doesn't bring in much money. Maybe you can change that someday, but you must be prepared to cover upkeep costs yourself. I want someone dedicated to continuing the site's quality and committed to paying our authors/graphic designers.
    • I'll talk nitty gritty budget details with serious candidates, but I currently pay approximately $2000/year in annual expenses + $1500 per issue. If you want to grow the magazine's reach, you'll want to budget even more for advertising.  
  3. Free time: It takes countless hours to publish each issue and maintain a thriving community between issues. I'd hate to hand the reins over to someone who's stretched too thin to devote large swaths of attention to this project.

The current state of the magazine:
  1. The website with the actual magazine hosted via a 3rd party service called Issuu. 
  2. 2600 Facebook followers
  3. 1050 Twitter followers
  4. 840 subscribers to our newsletter (and growing daily)
  5. A struggling Patreon account 
  6. A GoodReads account (it gets a surprising amount of engagement considering how new the account is and we haven't spent a ton of time growing it). 

Be prepared to wait a very long time for a response. Nothing magazine related will be happening in a timely manner and I apologize in advanced if you're stuck waiting for weeks or months.

On an unrelated, lighter note, here's a video of my 2020 birthday where I got to hit a pinata!

If you want to follow my next adventures online, here's my info:
  • Blog:
  • Instagram: @tahlia_mk 
  • Personal Twitter: @MissMystra

Thursday, March 4, 2021

Carterhaugh’s "Spellcraft" Is Like Joining A Wizarding School Especially for Fairy Tale Writers (+ Bonus Interview w/Drs. Cleto & Warman)

"Books are a uniquely portable magic."

(Stephen King)

You've heard this.

You nod your head in fervent agreement every time you do.

And you not-so-secretly wish to hold "portable magic" in your hands that you created.

But - and this is a perfectly logical thought: if books are portable magic, do I need to be a witch or wizard to create one? 

Yes. Yes, you do.


Writing books, especially ones that draw powerfully on folklore and fairy tales, seems like a special, magical talent, beyond the ability of regular mortals but here's a secret: if you're reading this, if you're curious about writing and love folklore, you can learn to be a Word Wizard. Words are spells. And you can learn how to wield them to create magic. You can become a Word Witch. Anyone who truly wants to - and is willing to get themselves a little magical learnin' - can.

Best of all? There is now a course for wannabe Word Witches and Wizards that anyone anywhere in the world can take. 

You can learn how to be a Word Witch or Wizard and use your love of fairy tales and folklore to springboard you into your new magical role!

Your course?

Spellcraft: Write Like A Witch

The place?

The Carterhaugh School of Folklore and the Fantastic

You can think of it as an inclusive, accessible "Wizarding School for Fairy Tale and Folklore Writers"; with award-winning Word Witch Professors who have hundreds of hours of Spellcrafting under their belts as your guides, different tracks for Word Witches and Wizards looking to specialize, magical reading lists, a uniquely beautiful Spellbook you can literally add your own spells to (available in digital format to type or touchscreen-scribe on, with instructions should you wish to transform it into something to hold in your hands to use with your favorite quill and ink), an enchanting group of peers - all with great magic potential - who will cheer you on and point out magic they've found in the world along the way, and much more!

Yes, there are even t-shirts if you want them. (For real!)

Magic is rarely easy. It takes work, effort, and persistent concentration. Sometimes it even makes you sweat. Writing is no different. But then there are also times where it feels like you've stepped through a portal, lost time, and emerge with a world and characters on a page that never existed before. It really is Magic. But how can those two things both be true at the same time?

Spellcraft will show you how; how to survive the first and harness the second. Now there's a way to learn how to become a real Word Witch or Wizard, so that your spellcraft becomes - not hit or miss- but a solid skill, with you becoming more capable of accessing real magic more often. 

So what does Spellcraft: Write Like A Witch have that no other writing book or course has?

  • it's designed specifically for folks who love fairy tales and folklore and want to write
  • the course comes with TWO built-in fairy godmothers to guide you personally (if you wish)
  • you get invited to be part of the inclusive Carterhaugh community, many with similar Word Witching goals to you
  • you have front-row access to scholarly insight into how folklore and fairy tales can richly inform your writing (any writing)
  • it includes a magical library's worth of writing resources specially curated for folklore and fairy tale folk, like you
  • it goes beyond the book - Spellcraft is intrinsically attached to the extended resources and community of The Carterhaugh School of Folklore and the Fantastic, so, if you do the course and complete the workbook, it really is like joining a Wizarding School!

We assume, if you've been following Once Upon A Blog even a short amount of time that you familiar with who and what Carterhaugh School of Folklore and the Fantastic, is, so we'll just add that Dr. Sara Cleto and Dr. Brittany Warman are very active writers themselves, continually publishing creative works, as well as scholarly ones, in various journals, magazines, and books, even while they’re teaching; these women can teach AND can do! (If Carterhaugh School is new to you, or you need an overview-refresh, please click HERE.) 

Perhaps, though, you're wondering if this new writing book-and-course is really for you. Perhaps you're thinking "but what if this is too niche/not niche enough?" or "how could my love of fairy tale and folklore possibly help me with 'real' writing that will get me published?"

Dr. Brittany Warman (standing) & Dr. Sara Cleto
The Carterhaugh School of Folklore and the Fantastic

We thought we'd take some of the questions to our Magical Professors friends of Carterhaugh, Dr. Brittany Warman and Dr. Sara Cleto, and ask them directly.


Hi Brittany and Sara!

Thanks so much for taking the time to answer some questions about Spellcraft. It's a HUGE resource - over 100 pages, with bonus options on top too - so we want to be sure our OUABlog readers get a good idea of just how unique Spellcraft is, and how it's been created specifically for writers just like them.

First of all, how would you "elevator pitch" Spellcraft to a folklore and fairy tale fan who's looking for a way to access the wizardry of story writing?

Accessing the magic of writing can be like trying to capture a will-o’-wisp (complete with getting lost in various swamps of despair)! If you’ve read a library’s worth of advice and none of it can connect your love of fairy tales and folklore to writing the stories of your heart, we get it. Enter Spellcraft: Write Like A Witch. We created a tailor-made grimoire for writers who prefer a little wonder in their world, and it's filled with keys to help unlock quality "spellcraft" that’s unique to you. Words are spells  - as certified folklore and literature experts we can prove it! - and writers are witches. If you’re wishing you could find that elusive portal to the magic of writing and you’re passionate about creating fairy-tale and folklore-infused work, Spellcraft is for you!

How is Spellcraft different from other "how-to-write" books and courses?

We made Spellcraft: Write Like a Witch because writing is hard enough without pretending it’s just for melancholy bros. Because there are tools, prompts, and inspiration galore for writers who steep themselves in magic, folklore, and fairy tales and we’ve pulled them together just for those writers. If you want to write with confidence and to feel like writing is fun again, this is for you!

Why will writers who love fairy tales and folklore find the writing tips and exercises in Spellcraft more relatable than regular books?

The prompts and tips in Spellcraft were all written with lovers of fairy tales and folklore in mind. It’s literally custom-made for you. There are sections titled “20 Ways to Start a Fairy-Tale Retelling” and “Folklore & Worldbuilding.” You’re just not going to see that kind of focus in other writing books.

I love folklore and fairy tales but what if I don't really want to write a fantasy novel, a fairy tale retelling, or kid lit (which is what people usually think about when they hear you've written something using folklore or fairy tales)? What other genres can Spellcraft be used for?

The great thing about fairy tales and folklore is that they are “all genre friendly”! You can find fairy tales in fantasy, mystery, sci-fi, literature, ad copy, scripts, romance, horror, YA.. all of them! The tools in Spellcraft can be customized for any genre that appeals to you.

That said, while there is a ton of material in Spellcraft about fairy-tale retellings in particular, there are also tips and exercises about other genres. We talk about “The Art of the Ghost Story,” for instance, and how fairy tales can help shape memoir. There’s also a lot of writing advice and tools that aren’t genre-specific - as long as you’re interested in fairy tales and folklore, these are materials that will resonate with you!

Can Spellcraft help me with my non-fiction?

Absolutely! Folklore is a huge part of everyday life, so it can also be a powerful force in non-fiction. And there’s tons of writing advice and inspiration that can be applied to non-fiction, from discussions of folklore itself to tips for writing dialog to guidelines on starting a writing group and giving (and getting!) useful feedback.

I want to write a memoir but my life isn't exactly magical, even though I love reading fairy tales. How can using the Spellcraft workbook and doing the course help me write something like that?

There’s a prompt and corresponding exercise in Spellcraft that will help you do exactly this! It will help you see your life, and all its non-magical events, through the lens of a fairy tale. We’ve used it with dozens of students, and we’ve seen its power first-hand!

Then again, what if I really DO want to write a retelling of a fairy tale or folktale - a GOOD one - how will Spellcraft help me write something fresh and, well, "good"? Can Spellcraft help me avoid the dreaded cliched fairy tale retelling pitfalls?

Yes! We talk a lot in Spellcraft about what makes something a good fairy-tale retelling, and we take a look at what can make a retelling fall flat, too! Between the many (many) fairy-tale prompts, the close-ups on some of our favorite fairy-tale retellings, and a deep dive into a retelling that just doesn’t quite work, you’ll be armed with a ridiculous amount of knowledge and strategies for crafting your own successful retelling.

Spellcraft help me get my fairy tale/folklore-based work published?

If you’re interested in publishing your work, we put together a special package called Bewitch: Getting to Publication, which you can grab along with Spellcraft! If you don’t know where to begin or you're feeling discouraged after another rejection or maybe you'd just like to figure out how to make publishing easier and less stressful, Bewitch is definitely for you! Bewitch gives you access to our submission tracker to keep your pieces organized, a publication-ready checklist to make sure you're setting your submissions up to succeed, insider knowledge on some of our favorite fairy-tale-friendly markets, and a template for submitting your work.

I want to write but I seriously-no-joke have
zero time. I can't even watch Netflix like regular people! Is there some magical way to write anyway? Does Spellcraft have something that can help me too? What about if what I truly want to write is a novel? Can Spellcraft help me do that or am I forever doomed to write flash fiction and short poems until I a) win the lottery or b) can free up hours of my schedule?

Oh yes. If you’re in this place (we call it the “I’m going to die if I have to write today but I will also die if I don’t write today” place), we’ve whipped up another toolkit for you called Magic Momentum: Master Your Writing in 15 Minutes a Day. It’s basically all the tools, rituals, and mindset practices that we used to write and finish our dissertations for our PhDs (basically - 300+ page books that we revised a million times.) It was BRUTAL, and we wish we’d had Magic Momentum at the time - but it’s our hard-won knowledge of how to write and keep writing when the situation is dire!

Finally, if Spellcraft was a magical helper in a fairy tale, who would it be (and why)?

Pretty sure Spellcraft would have to be Cinderella’s fairy godmother. There’s even a fairy godmother pep talk in Magic Momentum to help you get to the ball/ finish your manuscript!

Thank you for answering our questions about your new (incredibly expanded) Spellcraft course and workbook! 


Write Like A Witch


- and you can begin making your own portable magic immediately.


Words are spells.

Writers are witches.




Image credits from top: photographer/artist unknown, The Secrets by Mikeila Borgia, Personal by Valeria Heine Photography, Neverending story by Patryk Morzonek, Fiction by Dasha Pears, Official Carterhaugh Portrait of Dr.s Warman & Cleto, Floating Books/Red Library (cropped) by Zuzana Uhlíková, Every real story is a neverending story by Joan Carol Photography, With books by Elena Tatulyan, Carterhaugh's promotional pic for Spellcraft, Spellcraft Workbook Cover by Carterhaugh. official logo of The Carterhaugh School of Folklore and the Fantastic

Monday, March 1, 2021

"Once Upon A Time in Japan" Project Makes Us Want To Hunt Down All the Japanese Variants of These Tales

(Please note: credit not given on project page to identify the artist who created the banner)

 "What if fairy tales of our childhood would have happened in old Japan?"

That's the question put to a group of illustrators in Spain for a collaborative project in 2017, which makes for an interesting intercultural study of both fairy tales and Japanese folklore as seen and combined by outside peoples (both the stories, all of which shown here are referring to the German origin in the tales, even more than the American Disney lens, as well as Spanish interpretation of Japanese storytelling, culture, and folkloric characters).

Snow White by Aitor Prieto

There's definitely a subtext here showing how universal the tales of fairy tales are; that they are human stories, but we very much wish this project had included Japanese illustrators in the mix and had been expanded to Japanese writers, so they would write those stories rooted in their culture, as suggested by the illustrations.

Red Riding Hood by Nuria Tamarit

We feel there's a lot that could be unpacked here, in both positive and negative terms, but for now, we are thrilled to see a different lens applied to well-known fairy tales, which helps everyone look at them differently, and reminds people that people all over the world are people and that these tales resonate, no matter what form they take. 

Bremen Town Musicians by Xulia Vicente

It's not an approach without some risk though, For example, it is a little jarring to see a Japanese version of Cinderella as your brain figures out the multiple issues it just hit on. For one, most fairy tale fans these days are aware that one of the oldest variants found was from China (not Japan) and the illustration below isn't, perhaps, as clearly Japanese in style and design as it could be to distinguish this a different interpretation. To add further disruption, the character fondly considered to be the "Japanese Cinderella", Chūjō-hime, is depicted quite differently due to the fact that there is no "shoe" and "prince". Or perhaps that's just us being picky. Whatever the case, these are important conversations to have when considering other cultures, but it's also worth acknowledging that this doesn't make the idea of considering other settings (and how to represent that) as being invalid. The commonality is a love of fairy tales in "different clothes" and that can be very unifying. The important key here, though, is that a common love of something, while good, isn't enough. Using that commonality, however, to open the door to respectful and constructive conversations that aid proper representation can build bridges and bonds where nothing else could. (Yay for fairy tales!)

Cinderella by Alfonso Salazar

It's no secret that one of the big reasons we at Once Upon A Blog love fairy tales so much is that they show us how the human experience is the same all over the world while simultaneously showcasing just how widely variant the flavors of those experiences can be; they celebrate our shared experience as well as our cultural differences, and, as complicated as explaining those two things can be, fairy tales do it simply and clearly, and encourage an appreciation of people and peoples from every corner of the planet.

Continue scrolling down for some more lovely, interesting, and thought-provoking interpretations!

Bluebeard by Marina Vidal
The Wolf & the Seven Six Kids by Cristian Robles
Snow Queen by Aliz Fernandez
Sleeping Beauty by Miquel Muerto
Pinocchio by David Navarro
Puss In Boots by Paco Sordo
Snow White (Evil White) by Raquel Rodenas

There are more illustrations we haven't included here, so be sure to go check out all the various artist's contributions on Behance HERE.

The illustrators involved in this project are: 

Aitor Prieto, Alicia Fernández, Héctor Molina Fernández, David Navarro, Raquel Ródenas, Paco Sordo, MªLaura Brenlla, Elena Serrato, Jordi Villaverde, Michael Sanchez, Miquel Muerto, Cristian Robles, Adrián Rodríguez, Xulia Vicente, Núria Tamarit, Marina Vidal

All the individual portfolios can be found via this project page by scrolling to the bottom and seeing the list of "owners" for the project.

Are you pumped to read some Japanese "fairy" tales? We recommend the book "Once Upon A Time in Japan" by Japan Broadcasting Corporation (Nhk) (Author) Roger Pulvers (Translator) Juliet Carpenter (Translator), to get you started, though there are many beautiful individual-tale books and collections out there. [Please note this book has no relation to the project in this post!] Each Japanese tale (told in Japanese but translated to English) is illustrated by a Japanese artist, with an eye to representing their beloved tales and culture beautifully and magically for modern readers. (Amazon has a great preview showcasing the variety of illustrations used for different tales, which you can see HERE.)

Here is the blurb and a list of the tales included:

When wily animals, everyday people and magical beings come together in a collection of Japanese fairy tales, wonderful things are bound to happen.

Each story is brilliantly illustrated by a different talented Japanese artist. The tales recounted here are among Japan's oldest and most beloved stories. Entertaining and filled with subtle folk wisdom, these retold stories have been shared countless times in Japanese homes and schools for generations. Like good stories from every time and place, they never grow old. Kids (and their parents ) will enjoy hearing these stories read aloud on the accompanying CD.

The fairy tales and classic stories in this collection include:

  • The Wife Who Never Eats--the story of a man who learns the hard way the evils of stinginess.
  • The Mill of the Sea--the story of how a greedy man was responsible for the saltiness of seawater.
  • The Monkey and the Crab--the crabs teach a tricky monkey a lesson in fairness and honesty.
  • The Magical Hood--an act of kindness reaps great rewards.
  • Sleepyhead Taro and the Children--a story about what can be accomplished at the right time, and with the right help and the right spirit.
  • The Fox and the Otter--how a fox pays the price of deceit and selfishness.
  • The Gratitude of the Crane--a story about the rewards of kindness and the danger of curiosity.
  • The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter--a girl who starts life very tiny turns out to be big in many ways.

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Winter Solstice 2020: The Wonder-Filled Time of the Year

by Kristen Gould

Happy Winter Solstice 2020! We've made it this far and not long to go till we get a whole new year... 2020 is a little extra special (yes, that too but this is a good thing, we promise), in that this year we have the conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter in the sky, creating the phenomena called The Bethlehem Star, which was able to be seen in the US after sunset, as well as a shower of shooting stars (meteor shower) that is due to begin being observed just after midnight.

We won't go into the meteorological phenomena or the debate over what all these might mean, although do look up what Chile could see for the conjunction - wow. Instead, we want to acknowledge the beginning of the Yuletide Season, and, even though it's not suitably cold where we are yet, the beginning of our beloved Winter. (Autumn is a close second, we will admit - nature's paintbrush gets pretty showy in areas that have seasons, and there's nothing quite like it, but that quote below about Winter, explains a lot of why we love this season - plus the mix of dark and light magic potential, combined with the season of traditional storytelling: we are Winter Folk!)
Regarding the beautiful illustration at the head of this post, it was created by Kristen Gould during #FolktaleWeek2020, specifically for the prompt "solstice". While there are snippets of the tale/lore about the Oak King and the Holly King at war appearing during this time of year, we don't see many versions of the whole tale and there is only one (possibly two), picture books available detailing the tale in full to read to children. (Note: at the link an author, reads her story, showing pictures from her children's book - she begins at the 3 minute mark of a recorded live session.) It used to be common to see Oak and Holly Kings referenced symbolically in Christmas postcards, if not taking front and center, but the tale behind these images is largely forgotten. If it weren't for the popularity of the song "The Holly and the Ivy" (which overtly references a medieval Christian symbolism, while echoing an older Celtic belief in the Holly King) it might even be more obscure, so it's wonderful to see, now people are exploring more Solstice celebrations alongside Chritsmas traditions, that folks are discovering and remembering this tale of the changing of the seasons and the exploration of the "enchanted" forces of Nature, and to be creating new and wonderful images. We don't think we have seen the two-halves, or yin-yang, aspect of Holly and Ivy illustrated this way before but it makes such an excellent visual for explaining why the tale survives and has resonance. What's interesting to us, though, is that this War, or struggle, or contest - however it's portrayed - usually between two brothers (sometimes two men, or one man transforming through the year, or twins), rarely is thought about at any time other than when the Holly King is at full strength, ie. the beginning of the Yuletide Season, which is the Winter Solstice. Though the brothers "share" the year, it's only when Winter arrives that this tale is usually told. Perhaps obviously, this harks back to when Winters were more difficult to survive and how it was used as a reminder of hope for when the nights would no longer continue growing colder, but anticipate the arrival of Spring and new life, new growth and easier living.

Here's what Kristen wrote about her illustration:
I chose the ancient Celtic belief in the Holly King (the spirit of winter) and the Oak King (the spirit of summer) as my inspiration. It is said that they are forever entwined in battle with one another as the seasons change each year. There is a duality to this so-called battle, for while they oppose one another, they are still two parts of a whole and work in sync with one another to create the solar and harvest cycles. During the winter, the Holly King reigns, bringing transformation and new birth. The winter solstice is the marked return of the Oak King. On this day, the light is reborn.// I liked the idea of the two spirits being two parts of a whole forever entwined. This one also began as a traditional piece and then very quickly became mostly digital.
Oak King and Holly King - by Anne Stokes
"The light is reborn" is a direct reference to the Winter Solstice having the day with the fewest hours of daylight. Even though the Winter season/Yuletide, has just begun and the coldest days and nights are ahead, the daylight hours now start to get longer (think of the Oak King being reborn right at this time and getting larger and larger), until the longer light finally warms up the world again (in that hemisphere) and the seasons turn toward Spring and Summer. 

Here are some thoughts from writer, poet and artist Nellie Cole on the representation of the two Kings:

The Oak King, often represented as having a crown of oak leaves and acorns and dressed all in green, can be seen as comparable to the figure of The Green Man. The Green Man, like The Oak King, was seen as a figure of fertility, and is most commonly depicted as having a face made from sprouting oak leaves. This image of metamorphosis – from man into tree, or tree into man? – could tie in to the notion that the two Kings are the same being, transforming from one into the other.

The Holly King is likewise said to wear a crown of holly leaves and berries, dress in red, and sometimes as being accompanied by eight stags. This of course could arise from the belief that the Kings are aspects of The Horned God. But it also be connected to other figures, such as the Norse god Odin on his eight-legged steed, or Santa Claus and his eight reindeer (before the more modern inclusion of Rudolph). Due to Santa’s patchwork history, it is unlikely he is a direct descendant of The Holly King, despite his resemblances – though this could be another instance of comparative mythology at play.

Kristen Gould's "Solstice", reversed, to better see the Oak King
The dominance of Christmas over other Winter celebrations in the Western world displays an abundance of multi-cultural absorption (and sometimes outright appropriation) of motifs, rituals and practices from other celebrations and religions, (much of it Pagan) so Christmas is a veritable mish-mash of ideas under one narrowly-defined name; something which unfortunately has resulted in misrepresenting many cultures, traditions and people as a result (hence the swing toward the neutral "Happy Holidays"). Whether or not the miraculous-magical Santa/St. Nick and all the associated Christmas trees, gifts, cookies, reindeer, elves, stars, carols and more, come directly (or indirectly) from shared sources (Pagan, Germanic, Celtic, Norwegian and more) or are relatively new, only serves to emphasize the global tendency - perhaps even the "need" - to mark the season with a certain importance in our yearly lives. It reminds us to live, and to keep investing in puposeful living.

The representation of Holly and Ivy has always been an intresting juxtaposition for this concept of living purposefully. Even as Winter gets more severe, there is a strong sign - the lengthening daylight hours - that signals this is a temporary state. Perhaps because of the severity of cold and darkness and the unique challenges of Winter, this almost-magical transformation of seasons is noticed by most everyone, which in turn adds to the awareness of magic and magical possibilities at this time of year. It's a season which promises the possibility of new beginnings.
And it really is magical at this time of year. What began in October with a sense of Other in Halloween/Samhain, continues with different emphasis for a solid three months. We go from thoughts of the supernatural, dealing with our fears and acknowledging our ancestors, to rituals for (ideally) strengthening family bonding through Harvest (and Thanksgiving in the US), to a years-end transformative feast  - full of decorations, dress-ups, special foods, songs and films - that includes charity and gifting to extend the "circle of warmth" to include our fellow man (and often creatures) for holiday/Yule/Christmas celebrations, which then take us into a whole New Year, full of wishes, resolutions (and for this year, the promise of vaccines and the beginning of the end of this hideous pandemic) and resolve that this new year will be nothing like the last one. (PLEASE!) That's a pretty full quarter of the year to be focused on rituals of wonder, Other and magic! 

There really is something transformative about this time of year - even if you hate it. When everyone around you is decorating - even if it's obviously commercial - and people are ritualistically wishing you wellness and joy, there is a communal agreement to make this season unusual, different, and everyone's participation (or active resistance) makes not-normal happen, (decorated trees, twinkling night lights even in the most rundown of places, people giving selflessly to complete strangers, and more - even extreme negative behavior of bah-humbugs are part of the ritual!), which is another way of saying people -together- are making magic possible. Perhaps you won't get to talk to the Jolly Old Elf himself, but it certainly feels like you've been magically deputized by the Spirit of the Season when you pay attention to what your efforts produce. It's a very wonderfully-weird and awesome thing, demonstrating our ability to create Wonder too. This season, if nothing else, reminds you to be aware of the Wonder around you, and the potential of Wonder within you. It is even said that Winter is Wonder Season. 

What could be more fairy tale than that?

Happy Winter Solstice and Wonder Season
from all of us at Once Upon A Blog news headquarters.
Solstice by Kristen Gould
You can find more of Kristen's work on her website Enchanted Studio Co and Instagram - see below

Kristen Gould on the Web:
Instagram: @notkristen