Books

Toasty Brew

When my friend and cuppycake collaborator Anne Belov recommended To Brew or Not to Brew, I couldn’t wait to read it. I’ve always enjoyed a good mystery, and one set in a craft brewpub seemed just my cup of tea – or really my cup of beer 🙂 Throw in a stray cat called Hops and I’m hooked. It was a great read. When the murderer was revealed I was surprised, as although they were on my list, so was most of the town! This is the first book in the Brewing Trouble Mystery series and I can’t wait for the next instalment.

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To Brew or Not to Brew is part of the Cozy Mystery genre. Cozy mysteries usually feature amateur detectives and are often set in small towns or villages. Think of the TV series Murder She Wrote and you’ll get the general idea. While I’ve always loved reading and watching mysteries, there is a particular sub genre of cozy mysteries that has really got me interested – Culinary Cozy Mysteries!

Culinary cozy mysteries often feature amateur detectives who work in or run cafes, bars, food stores or restaurants. The TV show Pie in the Sky is a great example. The titles are often witty puns such as The Long Quiche Goodbye from the Cheese Shop Mysteries or Caught Bread Handed from the Bakeshop Mysteries. This is a very popular and prolific genre but I have found a way of narrowing down the field – pick the ones that include recipes! That’s right, some of these series include recipes that you can use at home. Thankfully To Brew or Not to Brew is one of these 🙂

I’ve just started my Culinary Cozy Mystery journey and already there are a couple of more series that are on my list. I don’t know if I’m more excited about the mysteries or the recipes! Inspired by To Brew or Not to Brew, I had to make my own “brewed” recipe. I have already made Beer and Bacon Cuppycakes so I thought I would make a tried and true classic – Welsh Rabbit. Traditionally beer is used in this recipe but I wanted to try something a bit different, so I used stout.

Stout Welsh Rabbit

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Ingredients
250g strong cheddar cheese, grated
2 teaspoons flour
15g butter
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 egg yolks, beaten
50ml stout
4 thick slices of bread

Method
In a small saucepan add the cheese, flour, butter, Worcestershire sauce and mustard. Mix well then add the egg yolks and stout. Stir slowly until smooth. Do not allow to boil. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly.
Toast the bread on one side and lightly brown the other side.
Place toast on baking tray with lightly browned side facing up. Pour cheese mixture over toast.
Grill until brown and bubbling.

For another interesting variation substitute apple cider for stout.

A Wonderful Life?

I don’t really like the movie It’s A Wonderful Life. I mean it’s a great film but I really feel sorry for George. There were so many things he wanted to do, like travel and build things, but he repeatedly puts his life on hold for the benefit of others. While noble, the hedonist in me always asks – what does he get for his sacrifice? Well he gets family, community and the knowledge that he has saved many, many lives. But the one life he doesn’t really get to live is his own. Well that is my brief take on this xmas classic that was based on a short story that was made into a xmas card. The story behind It’s A Wonderful Life is as fascinating as the film.

Equally fascinating is It’s A Wunderful Life, the story of San Diego’s giant panda cub Mr Wu, as told through the talented eyes of Anne Belov, creator of The Panda Chronicles. Mr Wu laments the birth of so many panda cubs in America as they are taking attention away from his cute self. When he wonders what the world would be like without these new panda cubs, the angelic Bee the Bear shows him what the world would be like if no new pandas were born – including Mr Wu! Whats follows is an extraordinary tale of cat domination, shady petting zoos and beer drinking pandas. A world without baby pandas is grim indeed. You can find It’s A Wunderful Life at the Panda Chronicles or you can read about Mr Wu’s many adventures, including my personal favourite The Wizard Of Wu, in The Panda Chronicles Book 4: The Book of Wu.

As many of you know, Anne Belov and I are working together on The Panda Chronicles Cuppycake Cookbook: Favourite Recipes of the Panda Kindergarten – a cupcake (or cuppycake) cookbook based on The Panda Chronicles.

Inspired by the thought of beer drinking pandas I have also created this very special beer cuppycake topped with a butter and cream cheese frosting and decorated with candied bacon. And this is the cartoon that inspired me!

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Beer Cuppycakes
After a hard day eating bamboo, some pandas like to put their paws up and relax with a refreshing beer cuppycake.

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This recipe makes enough batter for 24 mini cuppycakes and 2 full sized cuppycakes. You can make them all full sized but I’m not sure how many they make 🙂

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Ingredients
for the beer cuppycakes:
1 + 1/2 cups flour, sifted
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup (115g) unsalted butter, melted
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 egg, room temperature
1/2 cup pale ale
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

for the candied bacon
3 shortcut bacon rashers
2 teaspoons brown sugar (approximately)

for the buttercream frosting
3/4 cups (170g) cream cheese, softened
3/4 cups (170g) unsalted butter, softened
1 + 1/2 cups powdered (icing) sugar, sifted

Instructions
To make the mini beer cuppycakes, preheat the oven to 180C / 350F.
Line a 24-hole muffin pan with 24 paper cases and a 12-hole muffin pan with 2 paper cases.
In a small bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
In a large bowl, mix the melted butter and sugar together with an electric mixer on medium speed for 2 minutes or until combined.
Add the egg and beat until combined.
Add the beer and vanilla and beat until combined.
Gradually add the flour mix and, using a wooden spoon or spatula, mix until just combined.
Spoon the batter evenly into the 24 mini paper cases and the 2 larger paper cases.
Bake mini cuppycakes for 10 – 15 minutes and the 2 larger cuppycakes for 15 – 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of a cuppycake comes out clean. (I like to bake the mini cuppycakes first and then the 2 larger ones.)
Allow to cool for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

While the cuppycakes are cooling make the candied bacon by preheating the oven to 200C / 400F.
Line a baking tray with with baking paper.
Place the bacon rashers on the baking tray and sprinkle brown sugar evenly over each rasher. Depending on the length of the bacon, you may need more or less sugar.
Bake for 5 minutes then flip the bacon over and drag through the sugary liquid so both sides of the bacon are covered in sticky sugar.
Bake for another 5 minutes. Repeat until the bacon is dark brown.
Allow to cool on a wire rack before cutting into small pieces.

While the bacon is cooling, make the buttercream frosting by creaming together the butter and cream cheese in a medium sized bowl with an electric mixer. Gradually beat in the powdered sugar and beat until frosting reaches a piping consistency. Spoon frosting into a piping bag and pipe onto cuppycakes.
Decorate with candied bacon.

A Halloween To Remember

From the film Dracula (1979)
Dracula and Lucy discuss the sound of howling wolves.

DRACULA:
Listen to them, the children of the night. What sad music they make.

LUCY:
Do you think it’s sad?

DRACULA:
So lonely, like weeping.

We named our first two dogs for a bat and a wolf – the animals Dracula turns into in the novel. We named our pack WolfChild – as they were our Children of the Night. A year later, near Halloween, two more WolfChildren joined the pack. They made beautiful music together. Then one of our wolves left the pack far too soon for his journey to the Underworld. This year he was followed by first by one, and then another of our wolves as they too journeyed into the Underworld. We are left with only one wolf, our original bat.

When I think of my musical wolves I feel sad, lonely and constantly like weeping. The time will come when I, like Lucy, will not feel sad at the sound of howling wolves, but that time is not now. It is Halloween – a time for tricks and treats and honouring the dead.

Our dogs are buried in the backyard. Three little graves testifying to the fragility of life and the call of death. They are constant reminders of what we have lost and confronting reminders of what will happen to us all. But they are also comforting. When I look at their graves I remember their lives and their deaths. The pleasure and the sorrow. I remember them playing and running around the yard and I remember laying them in their graves and covering them with dirt. They are always with me and yet they will never be with me again.

Not long after Wolfy, our first wolf passed away, I saw a post on a pug forum about Shelter Pups, a dog charity in the USA that custom makes small stuffed dogs and cats based on your own photos. We knew straight away that we wanted one of Wolfy. Little Wolfy arrived on Halloween 2013. When our next two wolves, Wally and Furghy, passed away, we had little versions of them made. They are in our bedroom where we all slept, watching over us. We also had one made of our remaining wolf, Batty. But she won’t be introduced to the world until she passes away, which we hope will be a very, very long time away.

The Little WolfChildren

IMG_2142a  little wolfy

Wolfy Maynard WolfChild and his Tribute Doll

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Wally DennyCrane WolfChild and his Tribute Doll

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Furghy Fergie WolfChild and her Tribute Doll

Death and food are intimately linked. In honour of the decreasing howls of my Children of the Night I am sharing a recipe for Hush Puppies. These feature corn which is an ancient symbol for birth, death and renewal – appropriate food for mourning and Halloween.

Hush Puppies
Some stories say these fried cornmeal treats were used to “hush puppies”.

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Ingredients
vegetable oil for deep frying
1 + 1/2 cups cornmeal
3/4 cups self-raising flour
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
1 egg
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 spring onions, finely sliced
1/2 cup canned corn kernels, rinsed and drained
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
1 cup buttermilk (more or less may be needed)
extra sea salt for sprinkling

Method
Heat oil in a large saucepan to 180C / 350F.
Mix together the cornmeal, flour, sugar, bicarbonate of soda, egg and oil. Add the spring onion, corn, salt and pepper. Mix until just combined.
Stir in half the buttermilk, adding enough buttermilk for a loose batter that is still thick enough to drop.
Drop tablespoons of the batter into the oil, making sure you don’t crowd the pan. Cook, turning them over halfway, for 3-4 minutes or until they are evenly coloured and cooked through.
Drain on paper towels.
Sprinkle with salt to taste.

Invitation To A Funeral

Dracula author Bram Stoker died 103 years ago on April 20th. Twice a year, on Bram’s birthday and death day, I think about the author and his infamous vampire creation Count Dracula; two of the greatest influences on my life. This deathiversary got me thinking about death and cookies, two other great influences on my life 🙂

Stoker lived most of his life in the Victorian era. One of the most obvious themes in the novel Dracula is the exploration of the strict and repressive Victorian attitudes toward sexuality. But Dracula is also an exploration of Victorian attitudes to death and mourning. After all, Queen Victoria is as famous for her strict codes of morality as for her role as the “widow of Windsor”.

After the death of her beloved husband, Queen Victoria wore nothing but black for the rest of her life. Mourning jewellery became fashionable, and jewellery containing the hair of dead loved ones was popular. Queen Victoria particularly favoured jewellery made from Whitby jet for her mourning dress. Is it a coincidence that Dracula first lands in Whitby when he travels to England or is it a nod to the Victorian Queen’s favourite mourning gemstone? I don’t know. What I do know is that during Queen Victoria’s reign, mourning became an art in itself. And that brings us to cookies!

Funeral cookies have a long history and are part of the customs related to eating food for the dead. Funeral cookies were essentially edible offerings that were handed out at funerals. They could be eaten at the funeral to honour the dead, eaten as snacks on the way home from the funeral or given as treats to those who couldn’t attend the funeral. They could also be kept as mementoes of the day.

In Victorian times, homemade cookies were replaced by bakeries who offered made to order products on short notice. The evolution of printing technology allowed bakers the opportunity to package cookies in creative ways. Cookies could be wrapped in ornate wrappings containing printed information such as the funeral notice for the deceased, biblical quotes or poems. The Funeral cookies could then be used as funeral invitations with all the funeral details printed on the wrapper. If you were particularly peckish, you could even snack on them on the way to the funeral!

I loved the quaint idea of a cookie wrapped in a funeral invitation so much that I decided to make my own version of traditional funeral cookies. My version is a shortbread style cookie flavoured with caraway seeds, which are a traditional spice in old-style cookies. I have added rosemary as it symbolises remembrance and is therefore associated with remembering and honouring the dead. I have also used a cookie stamp to give them an ornate appearance.

Funeral Cookies

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Ingredients
1 cup flour
1/2 cup cornflour
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoons caraway seeds
180g unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup icing sugar
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, chopped finely
extra cornflour for dusting biscuit stamp

Instructions
Mix together the flour, cornflour, salt and caraway seeds.
In a separate bowl cream together the butter, icing sugar and rosemary until smooth.
Add the flour mixture and beat until combined.
Refrigerate for 1 hour.
Line two baking trays with baking paper.
Roll dough mixture into balls.
Press into biscuit stamp lightly dusted with cornflour.
Place on prepared trays.
Continue until all mixture is used.
Place trays in refrigerator for 15 minutes.
Preheat oven to 150C / 300F
Bake for 20 minutes or until lightly browned.
Allow to cool briefly before placing on a wire rack to cool completely.

In the Footsteps of Jonathan Harker

Jonathan Harker’s adventure in Transylvania takes up the first four chapters out of twenty seven in the novel Dracula by Bram Stoker. Yet this small part of the novel contains some of the most memorable scenes and lines from the book. When I went to Romania in 2005 I couldn’t wait to retrace Jonathan Harker’s journey from Bistrita to Castle Dracula. This was written shortly after I returned 🙂

In the footsteps of Jonathan Harker

Count Dracula had directed me to go to the Golden Krone Hotel

Jonathan Harker – Dracula

A hotel recommended by Dracula himself was definitely a place I wanted to visit. Luckily for me The Hotel Coroana de Aur, (The Golden Crown Hotel), which did not exist in Stoker’s time, has since been built in Bistrita to capitalise on the burgeoning popularity of Dracula tourism.Nine of Coins

As I arrive at The Hotel Coroana de Aur, I cannot help but feel that I am stepping into gothic literary history. At first the foyer of the hotel seems like any other until I spy the Dracula and Bram Stoker postcards, the hotel stationary which features Bram Stoker’s face and the store selling a variety of vampire paraphernalia. There is also a Jonathan Harker Salon.

As I step into my room I am disappointed to discover that they are standard hotel style, with barely a hint of the vampiric. But my disappointment is allayed the next day when I take breakfast in the Jonathan Harker Salon. Draped in the traditional vampire colours of black and red, and decorated with animal heads, flying bats and dripping candelabra the salon offers a feast for the eyes as well as the body. Devouring a sumptuous buffet breakfast, surrounded by such paraphernalia, is a real gothic treat. I am reluctant to leave the salon, but equally eager to continue my journey. Following in the footsteps of Jonathan Harker, my next destination is the famed Castle Dracula.

The castle is on the very edge of a terrible precipice

Jonathan Harker – Dracula

The road from Bistrita to Piatra Fantanele is the same road described by Stoker over a century ago. The long journey takes in the Borgo Pass, the place where Jonathan meets the horse drawn carriage of Count Dracula. After a long and fearful journey, Jonathan reaches the dreaded Castle Dracula. But I enjoy a relaxing car trip, not to a haunted castle, but to a modern hotel.

The HotTowerel Castel Dracula is another hotel created to take advantage of Dracula tourism. Built where Dracula’s Castle is described in the novel, the hotel is a curious construction. The strangely greyish purplish building is both gothic and comically vampiric. There is even a cemetery on the grounds. A small market on the hotel grounds stocks local souvenirs and Vlad Ţepeş and Dracula memorabilia. The hotel lobby also stocks an assortment of Dracula gifts.

After freshening up, the staff offer me a guided tour of Dracula’s Dungeon. I’m excited as I slowly walk down the stairs into the candlelit room. There is a coffin in the corner and I move forward to take a closer look. The staff have a surprise for me which I won’t reveal, but I screamed, loud and hard, but not before swallowing a few Aussie curse words. The staff are ecstatic at my response and after I catch my breath, we leave the dungeon for the next unsuspecting guest.

After dinner I return to my room which boasts beautiful views of the famous Carpathian Mountains. I sit and drink champagne, watching as darkness creeps along the mountain tops. It’s not hard to picture wolves, and other creatures, roaming free in the mountains. Finally I retire to sleep contented on a bed whose bedhead features the dragon motif of the Dracula family. I have enjoyed following in the footsteps of Jonathan Harker, but tomorrow my journey takes a different turn.

Good-bye, all!

Jonathan Harker – Dracula

In the novel, Jonathan jumps out a window of Castle Dracula and is eventually found physically and mentally traumatised in a hospital in Budapest, Hungary. I, not surprisingly, chose a different way to end my journey.

Four of CoinsHeading for Bucharest, the capital city, I spend my final night in Romania at The Count Dracula Club, a gothic club that truly caters to the vampirically inclined. Themed rooms and a downstairs dungeon are some of the treats that await the diner. I am lucky enough to be there the night of a Dracula show when the Count himself makes an appearance. Quoting from the novel in both Romanian and English the dashing Count cavorts around the restaurant, swishing his black cape and menacing the willing patrons. The menu contains Dracula themed dishes and vampire inspired cocktails are sipped between courses. I finish the meal with a glass of ţuică, the traditional plum brandy. My Jonathan Harker journey is almost at an end. Thankfully it is not with madness and despair that I end my trip but with an evening of food, wine and entertainment.

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Like me, Jonathan Harker has a great love for food and drink. There are a number of passages in the novel where Jonathan describes the food and drink he is enjoying in Transylvania. He even writes the names of some of the dishes so he can get Mina to cook them when he gets home! When I returned from Romania I also brought home a love of Romanian food and a deep desire to know more about this cuisine. Below is my version of the classic Romania breakfast dish that both Jonathan and I ate and loved in Romania.

I had for breakfast more paprika, 

and a sort of porridge of maize flour which they said was “mamaliga,”

Jonathan Harker – Dracula

Mamaliga

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 Romanian cornmeal porridge with honey and sesame baked feta.

Ingredients
for the feta
225g feta cheese
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon sesame seeds

for the cornmeal
2 cups water
2 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup cornmeal
30g unsalted butter

Method
Preheat oven to 200C / 400F
Drain feta and dry with paper towel.
Slice feta in half.
Pour half the oil in the bottom of a baking dish.
Place feta side by side in the dish.
Drizzle with remaining olive oil and honey.
Sprinkle with sesame seeds.
Bake for 10-15 minutes or until the feta is soft but not melted.
While feta is baking bring the water and milk to a low boil in a saucepan.
Add the salt and stir through.
Pour the cornmeal in a slow stream then turn the heat to low.
Stir with a wooden spoon until the mixture is smooth and thick, about 10-15 minutes.
Stir in the butter.
Place cornmeal in bowls and top with baked feta.

This makes two very generous serves.

Artwork for the Dracula Tarot by the wonderful Anna Gerraty

If you have any Romanian dishes you’d like to share with me please do 🙂

Connections: An Unexpected Treasure (With Frosting)

I am so happy to have Anne Belov of The Panda Chronicles and the recently released picture book Pandamorphosis as a guest blogger. Last week I talked about my love of pandas and Anne is one of the wonderful people I met on this journey! We are also collaborating on a book together 🙂

I’ll let Anne introduce herself and talk a bit about her work and our upcoming project!!

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Connections: An Unexpected Treasure (With Frosting)

Generally speaking, I’m not known for playing well with others.

At least, not in my creative pursuits. I spent my art school years learning to be a painter, and as everyone knows, painters paint alone in their garret, living an isolated, tortured existence. Cutting off your ear is considered optional.

But then a funny thing happened a few years back: pandas entered my life and I became…um…obsessed with them. (For more about that, read my post on Cordelia’s Mom, Still: Where did all these pandas come from?)

Visual art was my thing, no illustrating, no cartooning, no printmaking, nothing but all painting, all the time, and stay out of my very private studio, thank you very much. I had absolutely no intention of becoming a writer.

The pandas made me do it.

Their voices invaded my brain, and I had no choice but to write down their words and the stories they told, and draw pictures of them, as they popped into my head. The Panda Chronicles blog, which features Your Brain on Pandas comics, sprang forth from my playtime with pandas. This eventually led me to write Pandamorphosis, my wordless picture book. Pandamorphosis brought my fine art training to bear (pun intended) and merged it with the comical nature of my …um…comic pandas.

pandamorphosis cover copy

So, while adrift on the internet, looking for readers who just might be looking for panda satire, something very unexpected began to happen: I started making connections.

In art, as well as music and in publishing, the game has changed. No more can the creative introvert sit in their tower, far above the clamor down below. The internet makes it possible, no, make that mandatory, that the writer connects with the crowds. Assuming, of course that the crowds have come calling.

I discovered something magical: the conversations and connections with my readers (OMG! I have readers!!!!!) help to feed and inspire me. My readers have embraced my bears with genuine enthusiasm. After all, who wouldn’t want to hug a panda? The more my readers cheer me on, the more I want to write new adventures for my cast of pandas (and one very annoyed cat.)

It is this cyberspace connection that makes these interactions easy, not to mention possible. And now, through this world-of-the-future marvel, I am about to embark on a collaborative project with my hostess here at VSomethingSpeaks.

Sometime towards the end of last year, Vicky approached me with the idea of writing a cookbook, based on the characters of Your Brain on Pandas. At first, I was a little skeptical.  After all, these are my pandas. But then she began to share some of the character sketches and recipes, with photos, (because of course if you are going to write a cookbook, you must test the recipes exhaustively,) and I began to see that she had a feel for my pandas, and would treat them with respect. We began to talk of a collaborative project, combining her recipes and writing, with my comics and illustrations.

Literary scandal copy

Did I forget to mention that this is a cupcake, make that a cuppycake cookbook?

If you follow Your Brain on Pandas, you will be well aware that all the pandas are especially fond of cuppycakes, to the point of cuppycake obsession. So, you are hearing it here first: The Panda Chronicles Cuppycake Cookbook (favorite recipes from the panda kindergarten) is moving forward. Now that Pandamorphosis is out in the world, it’s full speed ahead as we develop our proposal and send out queries to agents. (What? You don’t have a copy of Pandamorphosis? It’s available on Amazon along with all the Panda Chronicles collections)

We hope you will follow along on our frosting filled journey. We’ll keep you updated on our progress here and over at The Panda Chronicles.

Vicky might even share a recipe or two.

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Anne Belov is a visual artist, cartoonist and writer living on an island in the Pacific Northwest. You can find her paintings at The Rob Schouten Gallery in Greenbank, WA, her cartoons on her blog The Panda Chronicles, and read her guest posts on Whidbey Life Magazine, an on-line journal of arts, food, and culture on Whidbey Island. Her book Pandamorphosis was funded by her third successful Kickstarter project. Her only regret in life is that there is no MacArthur Grant awarded for panda satire.

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Make sure you visit Anne’s links!!

Thank you Anne for your wonderful words. You are so right about making connections!! Meeting people like you online continues to be one of the more rewarding experiences of being a writer, as is getting feedback and comments from the lovely people who stop by and visit.

I think a Cuppycake recipe may be in order next time 🙂

 

Long Night’s Journey Into Day

Those of us in the Southern Hemisphere will be celebrating the Winter Solstice tonight – the longest night of the year. The long, cold, dark night gestates and finally gives birth to the reborn Sun. The old gives way to the new and the night gives way to the day. The days will now get longer and the nights shorter until the Summer Solstice. On that night the reverse happens as the Wheel turns and begins its solar, lunar and seasonal dance anew.

When I think of the Winter Solstice I think of what the longest night would mean to – well – to vampires 🙂 Night is when vampires come alive so the longest night must be their favourite. It certainly is one of mine. Years ago I saw a frightening movie, 30 Days of Night. In this film vampires take over an Alaskan town just as the sun sets and won’t rise again for 30 days – that is one long night! But just how important is it for vampires to avoid the Sun?

In The Dracula Tarot I explored the sun and vampires through the tarot Sun card. Below is a condensed piece that draws on my analysis of Dracula through both the Sun card and the Hermit card – both key cards for the Winter Solstice.

I seek not gaiety nor mirth, not the bright voluptuousness of much sunshine

I seek not gaiety nor mirth, not the bright voluptuousness of much sunshine

In many folkloric myths, the power of the vampire may be dulled during the day, but the sun does not kill them. Many early vampire stories have their vampires walking about during daylight hours, although they do prefer the night. This is particularly so with Stoker’s Dracula. Although it first appears as though the Count is vulnerable to sunlight, this is not the case. Dracula’s sun sensitivity is mainly evident in the first few chapters during Jonathan’s stay at the castle, but when in England, Dracula is seen in the daylight a number of times with no ill effects. Although restricted in sunlight, Dracula is certainly not as vulnerable to the sun as popular mythology would have us believe. Dracula can move about during the day, but like most vampires, he prefers the night. The power of the sun in Dracula appears to be linked to spirit, vitality and new life – much like the tarot Sun card.

In England, Dracula begins to personify the spirit of the tarot Sun. Dracula’s excitement at being in a thriving country is reflected in the number of daylight appearances he makes. Jonathan spies Dracula in daylight, following a woman who will no doubt be his feast. Dracula also visits the zoo, confronts the vampire hunters and books passage on a ship, all during daylight hours. Dracula’s forays into the sun coincide with the injection of new blood into his supernatural body. In England, Dracula is surrounded by people who are easily his prey. Glutted on an abundance of human blood, Dracula not only begins to look younger, but he is stronger and more able to tolerate the sun’s rays. Although Dracula is predominantly a night creature, he is nonetheless free to wander about during the day. Dracula’s trip to England reflects the tarot Sun card as the journey is filled with possibilities. For a brief moment in his life, Dracula experiences the pleasures of being in the world, hunting in freedom and walking in the sun.

It may seem strange to picture Dracula as a man about town in Victorian England, walking the streets in full sunlight. But don’t worry, Dracula, like most vampires, is still a creature of darkness. You can’t take the black cape and inner darkness away from Dracula, no matter how long he spends in the sun. The key to Dracula, as with most vampires, is that he loves to brood! Vampires’ long lives and self-reflecting natures link them to the tarot Hermit card.

I love the shade and the shadow, and would be alone with my thoughts when I may

I love the shade and the shadow, and would be alone with my thoughts when I may

The Hermit represents reflections on the past, present and future, and Dracula is no stranger to such musings. During his stay at Castle Dracula, Jonathan is privy to Dracula’s meditations on all these aspects of his life. The longevity of the undead vampire allows us a unique insight into a figure that has experienced the passage of centuries. Dracula has watched, experienced and reflected upon his growth from celebrated hero into shunned vampire.

When Dracula looks into the mirror, he casts no reflection. As a soulless creature he cannot reflect upon himself or see his vampiric changes. Dracula must seek such outer reflections in the faces of others. Sadly what is mostly reflected back to him is the hatred, fear and loathing of his true vampiric countenance – his unreflected mirror self.

So on this Long Night’s Journey into Day, what do you see when you look in the mirror?

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Blood, Life, Death & Resurrection – Stoker Style

While many around the world are celebrating Easter Sunday, some of us are commemorating today as the 102nd anniversary of Bram Stoker’s Death. So what better way to honour Bram’s Death Day than by briefly exploring the Easter message of blood, life, death and resurrection in Dracula? Three key characters who experience this journey in distinctly different ways are Lucy, Mina and Dracula himself.

Lucy – The Classic Victim

Lucy is the first of Dracula’s victims in England and experiences a traditional transformation into a vampire. Bitten when sleepwalking one evening, Dracula returns to her periodically to feed. Although her friends and family try to help her fight the vampire, they ultimately fail. Lucy dies, a victim of Dracula’s constant feeding. After her death, Lucy is resurrected into a “Bloofer Lady” – a beautiful vampire who drinks the blood of children. She is hunted, staked and killed, dying a second time. Lucy’s soul is returned to her body by the shedding of her unnatural, vampiric blood. Lucy’s journey is traumatic but conventional. (at least conventional in a “bitten by vampires” sense!)

Mina – The Living Undead

Mina’s slow transformation into a vampire is very different from Lucy’s. Mina is bitten by Dracula and forced to drink his blood. This is a ritual Van Helsing calls “The Vampire’s Baptism of Blood”. Dracula offers Mina eternal life through the drinking of his blood. The symbolism to Communion is obvious. What is interesting about Mina is that she starts to change into a vampire without physically dying. She is therefore turning into a living vampire. Her vampiric transformation is stopped just in time by the death of Dracula.

Dracula – The Unknown

We are never told how Dracula became a vampire. Was he bitten like Lucy? Was he involved in a Vampire Baptism like Mina? Did he learn the secret to vampirism at the Scholomance – the Devil’s school? All we know is that Dracula was once a human Prince and warrior and then sometime, somehow, he became a vampire. Dracula’s death also poses a conundrum. All the vampires in the novel are killed by having a wooden stake pierced into their heart. Dracula’s death is slightly different. Jonathan first slits Dracula’s throat and then Quincey stabs Dracula in the heart with a metal knife, not a wooden stake. Dracula’s body crumbles and vanishes, but is he really gone? Could Dracula have survived his destruction? If you’ve ever read a vampire book or have seen a vampire movie then the answer is a definite YES! Vampires are really hard to kill and the King of the Vampires is especially hard to keep nailed down.

Since it is Easter, we should explore another way that Dracula can be reborn and that is through the birth of a Son. Van Helsing calls Dracula “the father or furtherer of a new order of beings, whose road must lead through Death, not Life”. A year after Dracula’s death, Mina gives birth to her and Jonathan’s son. They name him Quincey to honour the fact that Quincey Morris died to save Mina. Yet many questions remain. Quincey’s mother is someone who has had intimate blood relations with a master vampire and almost became a living vampire herself. Can she ever be truly free of her curse? Does her blood carry any vampiric taint? Could some tainted vampiric blood have been passed onto Quincey? Has Dracula “furthered” or “ fathered” the vampiric curse through Quincey? If Mina is fully redeemed by the death of Dracula then there is no issue with Quincey. However, if she isn’t fully redeemed …..

Bram may have left this world, but Dracula, his most famous creation, lives on.

Three of Stakes

dracula coming to whitby

If you’re really interested in this stuff, check out my Dracula Tarot book and deck 🙂