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Playground of Lost Toys Interviews: Lalumière & Parisien

Lost ToysToday’s authors from Playground of Lost Toys are Claude Lalumière and Dominik Parisien. Their tales range from terror to nostalgic, but both cover grief in very different ways and look at the strong ties of family.

Claude Lalumière has authored many stories and several books. “Less Than Katherine” is a very visceral story, and disturbing. I like stories that make me think and leave a lingering sense, whether of joy or horror.

  1. What was your main reason for submitting a story to Playground of Lost Toys?

I have an obsession to try to be on the table of contents to as many Canadian (and sometimes non-Canadian) theme anthologies as I can. I love flexing that imaginative muscle, to try to find my own stories to tell within the context of a theme I might not otherwise think of.

  1. Does your story relate at all to anything from your own childhood?

Not at all. I have no idea where “Less than Katherine” came from. From Claudesome dark recess of my imagination I don’t have full conscious access to, I suppose.

  1. What theme or idea were you exploring in your story?

That’s for the readers to discover. Whatever I put in the story, consciously or subconsciously, has little or nothing to do with what readers will bring to it, what ideas and themes they will find in it.

  1. What else would you like to say about your story or the theme of the anthology?

The deadline was nearing for Playground of Lost Toys, and I feared I might not come up with anything. Then, one morning, probably too close to the deadline, I woke up with “Less than Katherine” in my mind, completely unbidden, and I wrote it as fast as I could, in three sittings.

  1. What other projects do you have in the works, or pieces people can buy, or places to find you in the coming year?

I’m the author of Objects of Worship (2009), The Door to Lost Pages (2011), and Nocturnes and Other Nocturnes (2013). My fourth book, Venera Dreams, is coming out in 2017 from Guernica Editions. Aside from Playground of Lost Toys, other recent Canadian anthologies that feature my work include: Licence Expired: The Unauthorized James Bond, edited by Madeline Ashby & David Nickle; Fractured: Tales of the Canadian Post-Apocalypse, edited by Silvia Moreno-Garcia; Tesseracts Seventeen, edited by Colleen Anderson & Steve Vernon; Chilling Tales: In Words, Alas, Drown I, edited by Michael Kelly; Dead North: Canadian Zombie Fiction, edited by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. My website is at claudepages.info. I’m going to be at Eurocon in Barcelona on the first weekend of November 2016 (some other 2016 appearances are already scheduled, but I can’t talk about them yet).

Dominik Parisien’s story is ephemeral yet latches onto your heart and pulls. Ghosts may not be something you think of with toys and games, but the games of make believe are sometimes our most vital and imaginative.

  1. What was your main reason for submitting a story to Playground of Lost Toys? And What theme or idea were you exploring in your story?

Memory is a recurring theme in my work in general, but particularly in how it relates to children and the elderly. As Colleen mentioned in her introduction, the “playground of thoughts” is an ideal environment in which to explore memories, for individuals of all ages, so that’s what I decided to do here for Playground of Lost Toys.

2. Does your story relate at all to anything from your own childhood? 3.  What else would you like to say about your story or the theme of the anthology?

Dominik_ParisienI’ve wanted to write about a drowned village for years. My late grandfather, Alfred Joanisse, grew up in le Chenail, a village by the Ottawa River that was submerged (relocated for the most part) when the government built the Carillon dam near Hawkesbury. I grew up hearing stories about the village – he even brought me to the remaining stretch of land on several occasions and I still visit when I can–and le Chenail has haunted my imaginative landscape ever since. I tried writing about it repeatedly, but the emotional core of the story eluded me. After grandpa passed I could never quite manage to write about him, or his village. It felt too real, too close. Eventually, I decided to try my hand at the story again (it’s been five years since his death). This time everything clicked. The village here isn’t exactly le Chenail, it’s a composite of that and some of the Lost Villages of the Saint Lawrence River. The people here too are composites, drawn up from family, friends, and some of the elderly I’ve done volunteer work with over the years. It might just be my favourite thing I’ve written so far.

4. What other projects do you have in the works, or pieces people can buy, or places to find you in the coming year?

Other than “Goodbye is a Mouthful of Water,” I have several editorial projects coming up. The first is the very first anthology of Canadian steampunk, Clockwork Canada. The ToC can be found here and it includes two PLT writers: Rati Mehrotra and Kate Story–Clockwork Canada on BlackGate.com.  Clockwork Canada will also be published by Exile Editions in May 2016.

In addition, I co-edited an anthology of original fairy tale retellings with Navah Wolfe for Saga Press, an imprint of Simon & Schuster. The book features an all-star group of contributors and the ToC is available here: The Starlit Wood. It will published in October 2016.

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Tesseracts 17 Interview: Dave Beynon

ghost stories, horror, lighthouses, cultural mixes, speculative fiction, fantasy, Canadian authors

Dave Beynon’s tale tells of a great love, and horror born of desperation.

“The Lighthouse Keeper’s Wife” is a classic tale in many ways. Yet you have made it very intimate and human. Do you have a strong connection to lighthouses?

 I love lighthouses and I think they come with a romance all their own.  They are by nature lonely, isolated places but they are also a symbol of connection.  The function of a lighthouse is communication.  The light reaches across dark waters to the seeking eyes of mariners.  It’s a connection that reminds sailors that they are not alone in the night but the lighthouse’s light is more than that.  It’s also a warning.  “You are not alone, but don’t come too close.  There is danger here.”

Lighthouses are rugged places, exposed to the elements, isolated – just begging to be haunted.  They stand at the edges of things.  Light and Dark.  Land and Water.  Civilization and the Unknown.  Why shouldn’t a lighthouse stand at the edge of Life and Death as the one does in “The Lighthouse Keeper’s Wife?”

CA: In regards to the human, and inhuman aspects, you deal very gently with cultural attitudes and a great love. Do you think that if we did have means to supernatural “fixes” that more people would be driven to take desperate measures?

Absolutely, yes.  I think we only need to look to science and medicine.  People without brain function and with little or no chance of recovery can now be kept alive almost indefinitely.  It’s easy to say that in a situation like that the plug ought to be pulled so that families might get on with the grieving process.  That’s a cold and rational, if realistic, way of looking at it.  I think part of being human kindles the hope that, despite evidence to the contrary, there’s still a spark of the person that we love somewhere inside that body hooked up to all those machines.  We’ll use those machines to keep that spark alive.

I think if there was a supernatural (or a scientific) way to bring a loved one back from death, it would be doomed to end badly.  If

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Tesseracts 17 is now out with tales from Canadian writers that span all times and places.

personality, consciousness and a sense of self could somehow endure beyond death, I imagine death—the whole act of life ending, either traumatically or peacefully—is the sort of journey that might change a person.  I don’t think the person you’d get back would be the same one you said goodbye to.   You might not recognize them—or worse yet, they might not recognize you.

CA: This tale is about fighting death but on a visceral level, with terrible consequences when a foreign curio comes into play. Do you think that in earlier centuries various foreign objects were seen a mystical or supernatural, only because they were unknown?

When I was a kid, I was fascinated by mythology, legends, and fairy tales.  That fascination led me down the road to Egyptology, complete with Howard Carter and King Tut’s tomb.  I was fortunate enough to see the Treasures of Tutankhamen exhibit at the Art Gallery of Ontario back in 1979.  I remember pressing my hands and face against the glass cabinet that held Tut’s burial mask.  There’s no doubt about it.  It was magical.

I think we tend to have two reactions to things we encounter beyond our cultural experience—awe and fear.  Usually a combination of the two.  Can you imagine the first European to encounter Chinese fireworks?  The first native North American to see a gun fired?  Curious objects abound and if we can’t figure out their uses it’s easy to imagine supernatural uses.  Why are there standing stones scattered all over Britain?  Why did the people of Easter Island commit such time, effort and resources into carving and placing their iconic moai statues around their island?  How would we really view an alien piece of technology if one fell into our hands?  Would we consider it technology or would the workings be so far beyond us that it would be indistinguishable from magic?

Nowadays (look at me using old-timer talk) we have instant access to cultural databases.  If we encounter anything mysterious or intriguing from a different culture, we can dissect it immediately, if we choose.  In the past researching a mystery would be a length process that might raise more questions than answers which would add to the idea of mystery or the supernatural.  I guess what might border on mystical or supernatural now would be googling a person or an object and finding absolutely no information.   In our information rich world, that would indeed be odd…almost magical.

CA: While this is not quite a ghost story, have you dabbled in other tales that deal with the dead in one form or another?

I have a number of real life ghost stories that I love to share on stormy nights and around campfires in the woods.  While I haven’t written a traditional ghost story (yet…you’ve got me thinking about one, Colleen), I tend to write stories that deal with people who have suffered the profound loss of loved ones and their different ways of coping.  I don’t think there’s anything more impactful than the loss of someone close and by exposing a character in a story to that type of loss you get to see what he or she is made of.  In that way, I guess, there are ghosts in my stories because my characters are visited by the memories of those they’ve lost and what is a ghost if not the vivid, enduring imprint of someone who has died?

CA: What projects are you working on now?

I have a number of short stories that I’m working on and there are always more short stories waiting to be written.  I have a wonderful skeletal novella about the last hours of a Paraguayan dictator awaiting execution that I’ll be fleshing out to novel length some time next year.  In the background, I’m always working on a novel.  The current novel is called Doc Merl’s Rolling Apothecary.  It’s the King Arthur myth transposed to an old west full of rival land barons, displaced Indians, mysterious railway surveyors, sabre-toothed cats who avoided extinction and the weirdly motivated, pan-dimensional Hoodoo men.

Dave Beynon is a writer of speculative fiction of varying lengths and genres.  In 2011, his time travel novel, The Platinum Ticket was shortlisted for the inaugural Terry Pratchett First Novel Prize.  Dave lives in Fergus, Ontario with his wife, two kids and Willow, a golden retriever who manages every aspect of his life.  Find out more about Dave at his website www.davebeynon.com or if Twitter is more your thing, he’s @BeynonWrites.  Fair warning, though – he mostly tweets about crappy weather and stupid things that piss him off.

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Tesseracts 17 Interview: Mark Leslie

Tesseracts 17, ghost stories, Ontario writer, Canadian authors, fantasy

Mark Leslie takes a caper with dramatic ghosts in Hereinafter Referred to as The Ghost.

Today, I interview Mark Leslie, the first of four Ontario authors in Tesseracts 17, and a ghost hunter of a sort.

CA: Hereinafter Referred to as the Ghost is of a very popular trope; ghost stories. In fact, we could have had a full anthology of just ghost and zombie tales, so choosing one of quite a few good ghost stories was a bit of a feat. While your tale is of a haunting, it’s jaunty and fun. Why did you choose such a well worn subject to pursue?

 Though I have always written horror fiction, I rarely have ventured into what might be considered the standard tropes of the genre. I have avoided writing stories of vampires, ghosts and zombies and other standard and traditional “monsters” that grace horror fiction. But when I have drawn upon then, I’ve tried to approach the story from what feels like a unique perspective. For example, the first successful “haunted house” story I had published was called “Requiem” and was about a man who collected haunted artifacts. The story explores what might happen if a bunch of different ghosts were thrust together and forced into the same space. Sure, it was about ghosts, but it explored a “what if” that intrigued me. In this case, the idea was whether or not ghosts could be territorial in nature.

In a tale I co-authored with John Strickland called “Til Death Do Us Part?” we explored what might happen if a married couple who constantly fought continued to fight and bicker in the afterlife, and what it might be like for their only son who, believing that his quarreling parents had finally come to an end not only witnesses their postmortem bickering, but gets drawn into it, yet again. It’s a very dark humor treatment of the ghost trope.

For “Hereinafter Referred to as the Ghost” I took a similar exploration. I imagined an afterlife in which there are those who “live” their afterlife in quiet desperation, and others who seek more, who want their death to be something larger than they are—those are the dead who become “actors” and work at playing legendary ghostly roles. I thought it would be fun to look at the concept of a well-known haunted place, such as the Museum of Nature in Ottawa, or the London Tower, and explore some of the behind the scenes elements, with a somewhat tongue-in-cheek look at a struggling actor coming to terms with the loss of his long-held skills and abilities to properly perform the roles he seeks to play.

The story, for me, wasn’t about setting up a scary haunting, but rather exploring what it might be like for someone trying to succeed in making that haunting real for humans.  So, sure, it’s a ghost story, but it is not one mean to inspire chills in the traditional sense—it’s one that asks the reader to consider the “what if that perhaps ghosts aren’t what we believe them to be, but rather roles that virtually any “talented” dead spirit can play if only given the chance to strut their stuff on the “stage.”

CA: The story touches on drama, and theater cannot be mentioned without invoking the Bard. While you didn’t bring in Shakespeare outright, how involved was he with your vision for this story?

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Tesseracts 17 is now out with tales from Canadian writers that span all times and places.

Shakespeare was at the forefront of my mind when I was working through this tale.  When you think of Hamlet, you might consider the thrill, for an actor, to be cast in the legendary role, or of the countless various actors over the centuries who have portrayed the prince in various manners and interpretations on both stage on screen.From Laurence Olivier and Peter O’Toole to Kenneth Branagh, Mel Gibson and Ethan Hawke, so many different actors have played this role as well as many other classic Shakespearean roles, each bringing something unique and different to that.

I imagined the dead auditioning to play legendary and classic ghosts in the same manner that actors might audition to do stage runs of Shakespearean plays, and thus the conflict between my protagonist, Patrick, and the surly “casting director” Snyder.

When I was thinking about actors and their desire to seek out coveted roles—after all, it’s much more prestigious to play the role of Hamlet than to be Horatio or, even worse, a role like Barnardo, one of the sentinels who encounter the ghost of Hamlet’s father in the opening scene of Hamlet.

I took the idea of the different roles actors aspire to and thought about what happened when an actor aged. How sometimes the actor could play the “leading man” roles, and how as time went on, he might be relegated to supporting role material.  You see the same thing with news anchors and in sporting professions.  Great figures that we admire grow old, drift off into the sunset while we seek out younger, fresher ones to take their place.

I tried to imagine how the same thing might happen for spirits playing the roles of various legendary ghosts around the world.  I drew upon the lyrics from one of my favourite Rush songs entitled “Losing It” that explores these themes with both a writer and a dancer, and how, as they grow old the precious moments, the echoes of old applause and everything they had built could slowly slip through their old wrinkled fingers, and I had some fun with it as Patrick faced those same things.

CA: Do you believe that ghosts do exist and if so do you think they have a lasting consciousness or are just after-images, an imprint of one’s life? Have you ever experienced an apparition?

I do believe that ghosts exist. As Hamlet expressed to his dear friend Horatio, there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in our philosophies. I’ve never seen a ghost, and, as I have explored in a few different stories that I have written, I believe that ghosts can be both a lasting consciousness stuck down here on earth, rather than being fully and properly released into the ether of the afterlife, but that they can also be imprints left in the universe around us, echoes of things that have happened. In my short story “Spirits” for example, I explored the concept of people leaving their spirits behind in a place they were somehow tied to, even without dying; that a place or moment in time or experience can have such a lasting and important impression that the spirit of a person, of a moment, of an experience, can echo in that spot for eternity.

No, I can’t say that I have ever experienced any sort of apparition; at least nothing that I couldn’t attribute to being over-tired or having an over-active imagination.

And that’s a good thing. Because I’m such a chicken that if I did see a ghost, I’d likely pass out or have a heart attack.

CA: Will we see any more escapades in this style of ghostly realm?

Definitely. I have been kicking around another speculative story about ghosts and the side-effects for those who attempt to control or contain poltergeists. It is, in many ways, a tongue-in-cheek exploration, like “Hereinafter” and “Requiem”—except, though it will contain a slight bit of dark humor, it’ll be darker and a bit creepier in delivery, much like a traditional ghost story.

CA: What else do you have in the works and what themes are you exploring?

I’m continuing to compile non-fiction paranormal explorations. My next book in that series of “stories told as true (a term that John Robert Columbo beautifully described this style of book) coming from Dundurn in 2014 will be called TOME OF TERROR and will focus on haunted bookstores and libraries around the world.

My forthcoming novel from Atomic Fez takes a look at how a teenager might deal with a bizarre death curse, where everybody he gets close to dies some sort of tragic horrific death.  That book, ironically, draws a great deal from Hamlet as well as from several texts I admire from several different science fiction and horror writers.

And, on Wattpad, I’m currently rolling out the novel A CANADIAN WEREWOLF IN NEW YORK. One might suspect, given that it’s a werewolf novel, that I’m using a popular trope. And I might just be, but the focus of the novel isn’t on the wolf, but on the side effects of being a wolf. The novel opens with my hero, Michael Andrews, waking up as a human in Battery Park with a bullet hole in his leg and no memory of the night before when he was wandering around the city in wolf form.  I wanted to focus on how he deals with not having any idea what his canine alter ego was up to, and the various frustrations of dealing with the logistics of having such an affliction while trying to live a normal urban life.  It’s a dark humor thriller more than a horror novel, but has been a lot of fun to write.  So far I’ve posted up to Chapter Twenty-eight, and the entire thing will be available to read for free here:  http://www.wattpad.com/story/3961496-a-canadian-werewolf-in-new-york

Once I finish rolling out this draft I’ll be using reader feedback to do another re-write before either sending it to a publisher or commissioning an editor to help me revise the final version.

Mark Leslie fell in love with storytelling, and, in particular the brand of Twilight Zone style tales he often writes, at an early age, and has been writing pretty much since the first day he discovered the magic of stringing one word after another to create a narrative.  The editor of the anthologies North of Infinity II, Campus Chills and Tesseracts Sixteen, Mark has also produced a series of non-fiction paranormal explorations in the books Haunted Hamilton and Spooky Sudbury from Dundurn Press, with more books in that vein in the pipeline.  Mark’s One Hand Screaming, published in 2004, contains a selection of previously published short fiction and poetry, and his first novel, I, Death, is slated for publication in late 2014.

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Afraid of the Dark

In 2000 I wrote monthly columns for an online magazine titled Fearsmag. I was paid to write whatever I wanted. This was a lot of fun for me. I decided to write on fears and would pick a different one each month. I started in October. Unfortunately, I only wrote four articles before the dotcom crunch swept away the magazine.

As a child were you ever afraid of the dark, of the things that lived in your closet? I was. I would always imagine the devil lurking beneath my bed and I had to try to look under it to dispel the notion without letting the devil grab my hair and pull me under. What of the dark of the great outdoors: I would sing as I checked on my rabbit whose pen was around the side of the house. In the dark where creepy unknowns leered and watched I would bravely sing my way through and thus conquered my fear.

We’re approaching that time of the year traditionally known for facing fears and shadows and for fear of shadows. The dark and night have always been associated with the unseen, both physical and spiritual. It represents fears, hidden desires and the underworld where anything is possible. One never talks of a lover’s sun but a lover’s moon, the brightness that lights the way on emotion’s dark swirling sea. Vampires can’t abide by sunlight, werewolves howl at the moon and roam only at night. All that is feared and evil and able to overpower our rational minds and our frail bodies crawls and creeps and flutters through the night.

It is an old fear, the dying of a season, the coming of the dark months, but one that has hit almost every culture and stayed with us in our traditions to this day. To the ancient Celtic people this time of year was known as Samhain (sow-en)*, or Summer’s End, the turning of the old year and the birth of the new. It was the darkest of times, the sun grew ever more reluctant to show its diminished face, the fruits had long abandoned the trees, and even the leaves fell in their death dances. Cold winds blew over the heath, rain fell like mourning tears and people filled their root cellars with preserves, the sheds with wood and they knitted warm clothing for the oncoming siege of winter. Who knew if the sun would ever return?

What could they do to coax back the sun? Samhain was the turning of the great wheel of time, but was there any surety that that wheel would continue to turn, or like a well worn wagon, would that wheel topple, never to spin again? Sensible people filled their larders, prayed to the gods and did what they could to appease the forces of nature.

From this fear of the never ending darkness came Samhain or the celebration of Hallowe’en (All Hallow’s Eve). As the wind moaned through the standing stones and waves dashed unheedingly into rocks, people knew that the souls of the dead were wandering closer to the land of the living. The underworld was nearer than ever, the veil that separated the living and dead drew apart and souls could once more traverse the land. And woe to the person who had caused a wrong. Everyone dreaded the departed returning for reparation.

As the earth grew brittle with cold and streams could numb limbs blue, it was only natural that such souls as had died that year might stop at the hearths of their loved ones to warm themselves before that final departure from the lands above to the underworld. Or perhaps they had already passed through that chilling veil and were stopping by for a visit, some attachment remaining still for the corporeal world.

 Many were the precautions that people used to keep the dead at bay. Some souls were friendly or helpful, yet others were malicious. One could sweep their thresholds, clean hearths, hang strands of herbs or leave something out for the wandering spirits. Not many people would travel on a night like all Hallow’s eve, and if they did, it was in groups. What better way to fool the spirits that might be looking to lick up another live soul than to act like you were already one of the crowd? Some of the earliest Samhain celebrations involved men dressing as women and women as men. Ghosts and skeletons, then ghouls, goblins, witches and nightmarish beasts—these were the first costumes of Hallowe’en.

Hallowe’en was a time of fortunes, to find what the year ahead stored in its larders for you. Who better than to let you know what the year held than those who were no longer snared by time’s net? That which lay barren in the ground would rise up with the soft kisses of the returning sun and would grow in the new year. By having one’s destiny foretold there was at least a certainty that the year would turn and the sun shine once again. Yet, it was with dread, I’m sure, that some people faced their auguries. Who wanted to be told that their loved one would die or they themselves? Yet, that knowledge was tempting. The future’s seductive lure of revealing what was in store has enticed many people to its bedside throughout the centuries.

One could prepare if the future opened its eyes to you. All this to stave back the impending dark, whether it was that of waning days or the black abyss of death that everyone knew lay somewhere “out there” for them.

Always one of the best ways to push back the veil of night was to light Jack o’lanterns, a practice that came in some time after the early Druidic festivals which included lighting large bonfires upon the hills. Jack o’lanterns, originally carved of turnips, kept those spirits or demons that lurked within the folds of darkness’s cloak at bay. Bonfires didn’t hurt and keeping one’s spirits up in large groups helped scare away any fears.

If you had done no wrong to the one who had passed on, you had little to fear from the souls of the dead who would visit at Samhain. Through most of Celtic culture a “dumb supper” would be held. There, people would lay out a meal of bread and honey and perhaps some cider or ale for the departed who were sure to stop by. A good and substantial meal helped one move beyond the world and at the same time made sure that the spirits weren’t slighted.

Gypsies during the Middle Ages used a similar custom. If they could not cremate the dead to pass the soul on its way, they would bury the person with all of their possessions. It wasn’t worth it to keep a treasured trinket only to have a mulo (ghost) come traipsing after you and demanding it back. To further keep the dead spirits happy, Gypsies would party and feast around the gravesite for several days, eating and drinking and leaving enough for the deceased to make sure the soul was appeased.

A guilty conscience might have been the reason many people left food for their deceased, but the underworld was beyond normal senses. It was dark and the unknown. Many people felt it better to err on the side of caution than to become the unwelcome host to the angered dead.

Besides warding off and appeasing the spirits, Samhain marked the time of stillness, of summer’s and sun’s and harvest’s and herding’s ending. Herdsmen killed off the weak, sick and old animals that wouldn’t make it through the winter and salted and preserved the meat.

Darkness left little to do besides mending and repairing and sitting around hearthfires telling tales, drinking and singing songs. When the revelry was done, or couldn’t be sustained the dark time of the year was a time of introspection. When animals burrowed into their lairs, the sap returned to the roots of the trees and sun drew farther away, it was only natural to contemplate life and one’s role, to think out new paths for the year ahead, to plan and to seek one’s fortune.

With all the activity—bonfires, costumes, auguries, dumb suppers and Jack o’lanterns, people had little time to think about their fears or actually encounter them. I bet there were more conversations with the deceased two thousand years ago or even one thousand years ago.

As Hallowe’en and the darkening months approach maybe you’ll have time to reflect upon them. The next time you encounter the ghost and goblins and things that go bump in the night, maybe you will have the sense to be afraid. Maybe you will have no reason to fear anything. If you’ve wronged no one, especially those who have died, then you might be safe. But don’t forget the darkness that can be the most frightening, is the darkness within yourself that can consume you.

 

*Samhain, the Celtic Feast of the Dead. Ducking for apples in water came from souls in the cauldron of regeneration.

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