Vampiric Fruit, Folklore, and Other Floral Oddities

I’ve developed a new obsession that combines my love of obscure folklore, fruit, and weird vegetation into one glorious rabbit hole, and I suspect I’m going to be here a while.   Send coffee and snacks.

The other day, a friend of mine tagged me on a post on the Book of Faces about an obscure bit of folklore that hails from the Romani people of the Balkans region, and it is a delightfully charming bit of lore.

Watermelon vampires.

No, not vampires that eat watermelons, but watermelons that turn into vampires.

Naturally, given my fondness for obscure and somewhat ridiculous monsters, I had to know more, and well, I might have lost most of the day poking the internet for more information.

The basics of the lore goes that if you leave a watermelon out for 10 days (or on a full moon, or for too long after Christmas, depending on the information source), it will turn into a vampire.  Apparently pumpkins also harbor aspirations of vampirism.  There seems to also be some contradiction over whether it’s all melons and just pumpkins, or all gourds and only watermelons.  (No, I’m not at all thinking about getting my hands on a selection of melons and gourds to test each of the theories, and I’m *shocked* that you would assume such things of me.  This bag of squash is totally for soup, I swear…)

*ahem*

Now, once the warned-of timespan has passed, the fruit is said to make a kind of growling noise and go rolling off to chase people down and I don’t know, try to trip them or something and be generally a nuisance.  The poor things have a small problem and that is they have a distinct lack of teeth, so they’re not exactly a particularly threatening sort of vampire.  You can identify them by the small amounts of blood they’re said to have on them, though how they get hold of blood seems to be lacking in information. I have a suspicion of someone tripping over a watermelon vampire in the dark and scraping their knees or something, which the melon then rolls around in.

They’re also rather easy to get rid of, unlike their more bitey cousins, in that to dispatch it, you just have to catch it, throw it in a pot of boiling water, scrub it with a broom, and then toss the vampire, water, and broom out.  No holy water, or stakes, or anything!

I love them.  I also may have read the original Bunnicula books a few times too many as a child, and have had “The celery stalks at midnight!” (read in a tone of voice that implies some sort of conspiratorially coded message that’s probably replied to with “The watermelons bathe in moonlight!”) wandering through my head all day…

I did discover an interesting thing about the actual plants themselves, because I had questions about the watermelon and pumpkin deal.  See, pumpkins are a “New World” plant, and watermelon isn’t exactly endemic to Eastern Europe, either, which I suppose could lend itself to interesting stories about them, or it could also be a case of a mistranslation and assumption that any gourd was a pumpkin.  Sort of like how corn used to be the generic word for grain, and it’s only recently been confined specifically to maize, or something along those lines.  One thing that I was not aware of until this all crossed my path is that squashes, melons, cucumbers, and loofah are all the same family, which is pretty cool. Yay Science!

I’m now really, really tempted to do a series of vampiric fruit paintings, because, well, vampire fruit is clearly something the world needs more of.  I’m also totally not going to do the experiment thing with the fruit, either, no matter what this notebook and pen in my hand makes it look like…

Winter Is Coming, My Dearest Beloveds…

Well, my loves, we’re almost halfway through November and winter and the Dark Months are bearing down on us.  I’m not going to candy-coat it, it’s very likely going to be a lot more crappy than usual this winter, after all the stress and strain of this fucked up year.

I don’t know about you, but I am *not* looking forward to wrangling with my SAD on top of all this.  To make it more exciting, my house is in a valley, so the sun rises a bit later and sets quite a bit earlier than even just a half mile down the road, which is great for Himself (he has the summer variant on SAD and too much sunlight is bad for him), but sucks for me with my winter variant.

On the strangely positive side, however, we know it’s coming, which means we can actually take steps to prepare for it and set up things to mitigate the damage!  There’s the usual; lightboxes and exercise are your friends, stay hydrated, make sure your meds are adjusted to handle the additional stresses, lick a vegetable at least once a day, that sort of thing.

But there’s also other things.  I’m a huge fan of the concept of hygge which, contrary to the dictates of capitalism, isn’t about spending money on dozen of throw blankets and single-handedly supporting Yankee Candle with an out of control candle habit.  It’s consciously creating rituals and oases of comfort and calm in your daily life, and deliberately choosing to look for the small happinesses instead of focusing on the negatives.

As a New Englander with screaming SAD on top of my garden variety depression, it’s honestly how I’ve survived our winters since long before I ever found out about the Danish ideas.  Nor’easter dropping 3 feet of heavy, wet snow in a day?  Welp, time to light some candles, toss a pot of stew on the stove, and poach some pears!  The weather outside might be vile, but I have the warm glow of firelight, the smell of a delicious, hot meal, and the gooey sweetness of dessert inside my walls.  Zero degrees and a windchill of -30 and still have to go out in it? Sucks, but when I get in, I’ve got the electric kettle prepped and ready to produce hot water for raspberry cocoa with marshmallows and warm, fuzzy socks waiting to look forward to.

This is the year to use the Good Dishes for everything  Yes, even breakfast or snacktime.

This is the year to have little projects pre-planned for the Dark, Cold days.  Makes notes for things like  “First Snowfall of December – bake cookies” (yes, things like the Pillsbury Ready Bake stuff totally count), plan weekly Streaming Movie Nights with people and go all out on the popcorn and movie snacks.

This is the year to GET THE DAMNED FANCY COCOA YOU KEEP NOT GETTING YOURSELF.

Drink the fancy cocoa.  Use the fancy cups.

Get the nice smelling candles and USE THEM EVERY DAY.

Set aside regular time to read a book, or work on a puzzle, or do something just for you.  Yes, even you parents.  Maybe even especially you parents.  If you start feeling guilty or whatnot, remember this very important thing.  When you take time for yourself, you are also teaching your little ones to take care of their own emotional and mental health and modeling healthy stress-reduction techniques that will serve them well as they get older.  They learn so much by watching what you do, as well as what you say.  Taking time for good self-care teaches them to do the same, and will help them be overall healthier adults.

That craft or hobby you keep thinking about taking up?  This is a good year to do it.

Spend a little time every day making your home or space an oasis of cozy and comfort. Start today.

Seriously.  Make plans for things that you enjoy to do over the winter and spread them out across the calendar.  Start the planning and prep work NOW, before it sets in and you’re fighting against the cold and dark.   Learn to find the small beauties and the little happinesses and look for them everywhere you can.  Store them up for the days that are hard, and remember to be extra gentle with yourself on those days.

Moisturize, for the love of little fishies.

Most importantly, reach out if you need to, no matter if the weasels are lying and telling you not to.  Take care of and be gentle with yourselves, my loves.

What about you?  What do you already do or are you planning to do to get through the winter?