by Angeliska on November 28, 2013
The harvest has been brought in, and now we feast on the bounty of the earth – but how many of those potatoes waiting to be mashed were dug out of the ground by the same dirty fingers who will later wash and peel them? How many of the full bellies will have known what it is to be truly hungry? I ask these questions because I find myself thinking all the time lately about how we got to be where we are, and what came before. I have a thing about holidays – not just enjoying them (though I really do), but honoring the turning of the year, all that it brings, and all that it means. What it really means, underneath all the layers of sedimentary history, stories, old traditions with forgotten origins. It’s impossible for me to overlook the fact that Thanksgiving in this country is a bogus holiday built on the myth of friendship (and eventual betrayal, genocide, slaughter) between white settlers and the people who were here first. But before that story, there was an older one – a simpler one, about the ones who tilled the land, who gleaned the fields, who huddled close to the fire, to each other. I feel that we instinctively need our fall festivals, our moment of fullness before winter’s fingers dig in. It’s an ancient ritual, celebrating the abundance of the fertile earth goddesses, Ceres/Demeter/Isis/Inanna – and all the accompanying symbols come from what was sacred to those who practiced the old ways, in the old days, right down to the cornucopia. In Greek Mythology, the horn of Amalthea (she was the kind goat who suckled Zeus) became known as the cornucopia or horn of plenty. Before the frosts turn everything green and gold to gray and dun, we stop to pause and feel grateful for our stocked larders, our fattened pigs, our fields ready to lay fallow for a season. This is everything we worked for. Of course, in this current day, there has been a massive disconnect from that way of thinking, and many of us go through the motions: loading our carts in bustling grocery stores, stuffing ourselves, and merely enduring the company of our families. How to reconnect to that sense of belonging with the land, when almost everything we do is destroying it? I am curious if we will remember days of plenty so vividly when food shortages come to be widespread again. We used to live together, in tribes, in villages, in big groups. The old ones and the young ones, the strong ones and the fragile ones. We used to always be together like this, breathing each other in, listening to all the stories, working and living and loving and fighting and sleeping and waking. Now we live apart – connected by ether, but disparate, solitary. Some part of me remembers, though – what it’s like to lay sleeping on the ground, in a circle of other humans, firelight dancing on the cave walls. Curled into myself, but listening to the night sounds of breathing, whispering, a baby’s cry – and thinking, “This is how we are supposed to live – together. This is how it used to be, everywhere, for humans on this planet.”
I’ve been thinking about the wise old grandmother turkey I met recently, a grey and elegant crone named Chincha who lives on my friend’s farm. She is eleven years old, and mostly blind. She is friendly, though the other birds pick on her, because even with her still formidable size, she has grown weak with age, shrunken. Does Chincha know that the number one predator of her species is us? I never had met a turkey I liked and respected – though I suppose that really I had just never been properly introduced to any turkeys before. Will I still eat them? Yes, I think so – but I will be thinking of her bright black inquisitive gaze, and wondering if the bird on my plate had such spirit. I am a dedicated carnivore, but I do think about the creatures I consume – and I don’t know if that makes it better or worse. Both, I guess. I’m grateful for their gifts.
Before this week, I don’t think I’d ever known anything about the The Occupation of Alcatraz by Native Americans, or about Unthanksgiving Day (also known as The Indigenous Peoples Sunrise Ceremony), an event still held on the island of Alcatraz to honor the indigenous peoples of the Americas and promote their rights. This coincides with a similar protest, the National Day of Mourning, which began in Massachusetts.
“From November, 1969 to June, 1971, a group called Indians of All Tribes, Inc., occupied Alcatraz Island. This group, made up of American Indians relocated to the Bay Area, was protesting against the United States government’s policies that affected them. They were protesting federal laws that took aboriginal land away from American Indians and that aimed to destroy American Indian cultures. The Alcatraz occupation is recognized today as one of the most important events in contemporary Native American history. It was the first intertribal protest action to focus the nation’s attention on the situation of native peoples in the United States. The island occupation ignited a protest movement which culminated with the occupation of Wounded Knee on the Pine Ridge Reservation of the Oglala Sioux in South Dakota in 1973. Because of the attention brought to the plight of the American Indian communities, as a result of the occupation, federal laws were created which demonstrated new respect for aboriginal land rights and for the freedom of American Indians to maintain their traditional cultures.”
“Before AIM [American Indian Movement], Indians were dispirited, defeated and culturally dissolving. People were ashamed to be Indian. You didn’t see the young people wearing braids or chokers or ribbon shirts in those days. Hell, I didn’t wear ‘em. People didn’t Sun Dance, they didn’t Sweat, they were losing their languages. Then there was that spark at Alcatraz, and we took off. Man, we took a ride across this country. We put Indians and Indian rights smack dab in the middle of the public consciousness for the first time since the so-called Indian Wars…. AIM laid the groundwork for the next stage in regaining our sovereignty and self-determination as nation, and I’m proud to have been a part of that.”
- Russell Means (Oglala Lakota)
If Chincha were a human, I like to think she would look like this woman.
Also, I highly recommend reading this today: IT’S DECORATIVE GOURD SEASON, MOTHERFUCKERS.
I recently came across the incredibly powerful paintings of Michigan artist Andrea Kowch. Her paintings speak to me on so many levels: something about her fascination with those yellow fields, gray skies, the hard-bitten faces and floating hair of her women, staring sharply, consorting with animal visitors. I’ll let her work speak for itself, though:
Much of what I wanted to share here began on a Thanksgiving a few years ago, trying to explain my love for eerie, slightly barren landscapes, and the art and films that take them as themes. Hungry outsiders lost in golden fields, haunting big white farmhouses, making bad decisions. I can’t leave any of that alone, it seems, so here it is again – expanded upon. Andrew Wyeth, Terence Malick, Philip Ridley, and now, Andrea Krowch – all making this art about a specifically American place and feeling – and it’s not entirely a good place or feeling. They all go there, though, again and again – wandering around between the rows, under that big horrible sky.
You see strange things hurl past you at high speeds on those backroads.
Faded signs whose obsolete messages you still struggle to make out,
beautiful abandoned houses, and dead trees that read as sculpture against
the big sky – black-limbed and bony, reaching up in agony with hundreds
of twisted wooden witch-fingers. I wish all the time that I could just bring them
all home with me to hang blue-bottles from. There’s got to be a way to do that.
I saw an old black limousine with bashed in windows parked in the middle of
a tawny cornfield. It looked like a lost still from The Reflecting Skin, and made
me think again of some of my favorite films that take place in the weird liminal
space that is a fallow field. They are all tied together in my mind – that one,
and Tideland, and also Malick’s Days of Heaven and Badlands. All favorite
films of mine, and all masterpieces of wrongness set in tall yellow grass
with decrepit old houses. A lot can happen in the terrifying wide open of
a prairie. That grass can whisper to you of terrible things. All of those films
come from this place, I think:
The woman crawling through the tawny grass was the artist’s neighbor in Maine, who, crippled by polio, “was limited physically but by no means spiritually.” Wyeth further explained, “The challenge to me was to do justice to her extraordinary conquest of a life which most people would consider hopeless.” He recorded the arid landscape, rural house, and shacks with great detail, painting minute blades of grass, individual strands of hair, and nuances of light and shadow. In this style of painting, known as magic realism, everyday scenes are imbued with poetic mystery.
“Malick’s closest creative relative as an American artist may not be other filmmakers, but rather Andrew Wyeth, a realist painter who nonetheless offered such intensely studied, obliquely conceived pictures that they always seem to vibrate with a sense of hidden elements and forces. In much the same way, Malick constantly alchemises images into emotions, which is the very aspect of his films that remain hardest for the more literal-minded to grasp.”
– From Ferdy on Film’s piece about To The Wonder (which I still haven’t seen!)
Oh Sissy. I love her because she’s brilliant, and I love her because she reminds me so much of my mom. In this still, she makes me think of Jeliza Rose, below – beautiful and precocious innocents dazzled by a strange and dangerous new world.
Tideland is reviled by many as being a pointless exercise in depravity by Terry Gilliam, but I loved it immensely. It is disturbing, and often uncomfortable to watch, but it is also beautiful and powerful. Most of my favorite films are a combination of both (see The Reflecting Skin, below).
“Like an irrational but beautiful dream, The Reflecting Skin unfolds with a clarity that’s disturbing. It’s a true American Gothic, a movie in which breathtakingly blue skies and Van Gogh-gold wheat fields are unlikely witnesses to the horrors confronting eight-year-old Seth Dove. For Seth, the world of childhood is one of nightmares in broad daylight: his friends are being senselessly murdered, his tormented father incinerates himself before his eyes, his half-crazy mother abuses him, his beloved brother returning from World War II is mysteriously wasting away, and the strange woman living next door must be a vampire.
Even with its obvious flaws, however, there’s something oddly compelling about this weird, weird movie. The Reflecting Skin may befuddle you by what it’s all about, but like a vivid dream, you’ll have a difficult time forgetting it.
Director Philip Ridley has stated that his film is heavily inspired by the paintings of Andrew Wyeth in its visual style.”
From NO MORE HEROES ANYMORE
THE REFLECTING SKIN
DAYS OF HEAVEN
by Angeliska on November 15, 2013
It’s the season for reading my most favorite story from my most favorite book by my most favorite author… The Erl-King, by Angela Carter, from her astounding anthology of dark fairy tales, The Bloody Chamber. It’s the very best thing to read around a wood-fire on a chilly evening, which is exactly what I shall be doing this upcoming full moon, for the Moon Language Story Circle. It’s the Mourning Moon in Taurus, and the theme of this month’s circle is Sadness and Relief. I love reading stories aloud, and don’t often enough get the chance to do it, so I’m very excited to get to participate in this gathering. This one, though – ach! It’s just such a pleasure to let those words roll off your tongue, almost musically. It’s a hypnotizing tale, about the magic of the woods, hunter and prey, and a strange kind of love.
I came across a sort of random assortment of fashion-y images stashed in one of my various inspiration folders, and thought their autumnal glamour might illustrate some lines from the story well. I forget where they’re all from, alas. But aren’t they lovely?
I walked through the wood until all its perspectives converged upon a darkening clearing; as soon as I saw them, I knew at once that all its occupants had been waiting for me from the moment I first stepped into the wood, with the endless patience of wild things, who have all the time in the world.
A young girl would go into the wood as trustingly as Red Riding Hood to her granny’s house but this light admits of no ambiguities and, here, she will be trapped in her own illusion because everything in the wood is exactly as it seems.
He smiles. He lays down his pipe, his elder bird-call. He lays upon me his irrevocable hand.
His eyes are quite green, as if from too much looking at the wood.
There are some eyes can eat you.
The woods enclose. You step between the first trees and then you are no longer in the open air; the wood swallows you up.
There is no way through the wood any more, this wood has reverted to its original privacy.
What big eyes you have. Eyes of an incomparable luminosity, the numinous phosphorescence of the eyes of lycanthropes. The gelid green of your eyes fixes my reflective face; It is a preservative, like a green liquid amber; it catches me. I am afraid I will be trapped in it for ever like the poor little ants and flies that stuck their feet in resin before the sea covered the Baltic. He winds me into the circle of his eye on a reel of birdsong. There is a black hole in the middle of both your eyes; it is their still centre, looking there makes me giddy, as if I might fall into it.
Your green eye is a reducing chamber. If I look into it long enough, I will become as small as my own reflection, I will diminish to a point and vanish. I will be drawn down into that black whirlpool and be consumed by you. I shall become so small you can keep me in one of your osier cages and mock my loss of liberty. I have seen the cage you are weaving for me; it is a very pretty one and I shall sit, hereafter, in my cage among the other singing birds but I — I shall be dumb, from spite.
(Artwork by Kristina Carroll)
Erl-King will do you grievous harm.
(Artwork by Chloe North)
Piercingly, now, there came again the call of the bird, as desolate as if it came from the throat of the last bird left alive. That call, with all the melancholy of the failing year in it, went directly to my heart.
Had to restrain myself mightily from not only buying this, but also passionately caressing her signature. There’s something magical about the fact that she was here in Austin, also – even though I was just a wee one at the time. She was here! Yes, I’m a little obsessed with her genius. I was only partially successful in not making a scene. Minor tantrum, but escaped sans book, bank account intact. Still ravenously coveting this treasure.
by Angeliska on November 11, 2013
A year is come and past, 11.11 winking bright and then gone again – and here I am, whole and hale and maybe a tiny touch wiser? There are certainly more silver threads in my crown now. Today, I feel remarkably at peace. Everything is changed, and nothing has. My life fell apart so spectacularly, it seemed completely insurmountable to even imagine how anything would ever knit back together. And yet, astoundingly, by infinitesimally slow increments, it has been doing just that. Not by accident, nor exactly by design – but by necessity.
Seems like all the same pieces are on the chessboard, just at different removes, and not at odds anymore really. Just living, turning in our own odd orbits. Getting on with it. We fall apart, tumble together, some smash to smithereens and reform in unfamiliar patterns. Everything turns, and time brings with it a slow mending. I didn’t believe it a year ago, no matter how many times I was told: that time heals all wounds. I still don’t. It’s not just time, the accumulation of sand in the glass that makes our memory of the sharp shock of it hazier, more bearable. The lines of those rough edges may have grown indistinct, but the outlines of the scars are still there. Just like any other injury – the way you take care of a wound matters. A dirty, unchanged bandage leads to infection. Ignore it, let time do its work, and you’ll end up with something nasty under that old rag. It’s not enough to let dust collect there, sticking to the scabs like gray pollen – not enough to just leave it up to the passage of days to do all the repairing. The work is ours to do, assiduously; the careful cleaning, a thorough scrubbing off of dead skin, the hardened eschar. Thick layers of illusion and denial slough off after repeated treatments. Daily, we must inspect for putrefaction; we try and stop telling ourselves the same bleak bedtime stories, to stop the spread of those poisonous narratives (my life is over, I’m going to die alone, no one is ever going to love me, et cetera et cetera ad nauseam.) Application of various salves, unguents, balms of gilead; in my case, these most often come in the form of long baths, puppy kisses, and dedicated headlong escape into the realms of fantasy fiction. Licking at the wound frantically like a scared animal, alone in a dark cave won’t do any good. To properly heal, you have to stretch that old scar tissue, rebuild the muscle memory, not let it all go slack, curl in on itself. This is the emotional equivalent of regular physical therapy – talking with good friends helps, especially if they are patient and understanding enough to listen to you tell the same tale of woe over and over, and particularly if they are wise enough to ask you the hard questions. Going to an actual heart/mind/soul therapist is a good idea, if you can find one that you really connect with – preferably someone who is smarter than you, can see through your crafty guises and pretenses, and who will call you out on your bullshit. A year of changing the bandages, going through the motions, spooning oatmeal into your mouth in the mornings, washing your face in the evenings, and somehow, we begin to heal.
The heart naturally leans towards forgiveness, acceptance. A mending. Amends. When we are all turned to dust, it will matter that we were kind, that we let it all go.
People come to me every day, holding their broken hearts out in their hands, red and raw. They want to cards to tell them all about how their lost love will change their mind, come back to them. They want me to make it all better, to tell them that it’s not over. I tell them what I learned from one of my teachers: that relationships don’t end, they just transform. It didn’t seem possible, to me then, either. At the time, I remember being incredibly skeptical that I could ever feel anything but complete devotion to my relationship, that I could ever not be in love with my partner. I resisted it, railed against it. Because honestly – it terrified me. I hated thinking that an undying love can just one day fade away. That someone you felt so passionately about can eventually melt into the background of your life, or ebb away completely. What does that mean for true love, enduring love? I’ve been forced to examine why that version of love has come to be the gold standard for me – the only one worth considering. Seeing an elderly couple, still in love after decades together, always just kills me. They’re crossing the finish line together, winning the black belt of romance, sticking it out and eking every last drop of time they have together. Making it count. I know we all die alone, but the things I love most are built to last: houses, furniture, friendships – and love.
A letter from my grandmother to my mother, in her amazing spidery script: “I suppose your Daddy and I are two of the most happy persons in the world! We have each other! We love each other! We love our four good lovely offspring, and their sweet spouses; and oh! How we love our darling grand-children. The best thing that ever happened to me was marrying your Daddy. He is so good, and so sweet – so industrious, talented and helpful. So dear!”
I was lucky enough to have two sets of grandparents who loved each other fiercely until the day they died. Maybe it was seeing my dad lose my mom to cancer; learning from a very young age how fragile the promise of a lifelong bond really is. So often, it’s not a choice. To be able to choose to be with someone, to stay by their side for as long as you possibly can – seems like such a gift, such a luxury. To me, it’s this kind of love, the forever kind, that I’ve always hoped to find. But I wonder now – does that make every other kind of love invalid? I think of myself often as being unlucky in love, because my relationships eventually ended. They didn’t make it, didn’t survive the heart’s cruel vicissitudes. Does the lack of longevity render those affections meaningless? Or is it because I was young and dumb, because it was really lust, or infatuation, or because we don’t talk anymore, or even think about each other, ever. What about the people you fall madly in love with, for the span of a few blocks, on the bus or the subway? What about your best friend who you had a burning crush on but never told? Well, I guess that I just don’t know.
A friend of mine told me a few months back that thing about how some lovers are for a reason, some for a season, and some for a lifetime. It stuck with me, that thought, kept me awake and thinking, until I flung off the covers, turned on the light, grabbed my magical information device, and tracked down this:
“People come into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime.
When you figure out which one it is,
you will know what to do for each person…
When someone is in your life for a REASON,
it is usually to meet a need you have expressed.
They have come to assist you through a difficulty;
to provide you with guidance and support;
to aid you physically, emotionally or spiritually.
They may seem like a godsend, and they are.
They are there for the reason you need them to be.
Then, without any wrongdoing on your part or at an inconvenient time,
this person will say or do something to bring the relationship to an end.
Sometimes they die. Sometimes they walk away.
Sometimes they act up and force you to take a stand.
What we must realize is that our need has been met, our desire fulfilled; their work is done.
The prayer you sent up has been answered and now it is time to move on.
Some people come into your life for a SEASON,
because your turn has come to share, grow or learn.
They bring you an experience of peace or make you laugh.
They may teach you something you have never done.
They usually give you an unbelievable amount of joy.
Believe it. It is real. But only for a season.
LIFETIME relationships teach you lifetime lessons;
things you must build upon in order to have a solid emotional foundation.
Your job is to accept the lesson, love the person,
and put what you have learned to use in all other relationships and areas of your life.
It is said that love is blind but friendship is clairvoyant.“
I guess that I do know some things now.
I know that I’m still just a fool on the hill.
I know that you can always be surprised.
I know that you just never know.
I know that these words have helped me, immeasurably:
“The greatest gift you can give somebody is your own personal development. I used to say, ‘If you will take care of me, I will take care of you. Now I say, I will take care of me for you, if you will take care of you for me.’”
– Jim Rohn
“I spent my life learning to feel less. Every day I felt less. Is that growing old? Or is it something worse? You cannot protect yourself from sadness without protecting yourself from happiness.” – Jonathan Safran Foer
“Of course I’ll hurt you. Of course you’ll hurt me. Of course we will hurt each other. But this is the very condition of existence. To become spring, means accepting the risk of winter. To become presence, means accepting the risk of absence.”
― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince
“There is no intensity of love or feeling that does not involve the risk of crippling hurt. It is a duty to take this risk, to love and feel without defense or reserve.” — William S. Burroughs
“Ninety percent of the people in the world end up with the wrong person. And that’s what makes the jukebox spin.”
– Willie Nelson
Words of wisdom from folks I wish I could claim as my friends, but also I think of the truths from friends, the wise things they’ve told me to get me through. I’m so grateful for them. Even today, a perfect gem fell from the lips of my girl Nicole, quoting a song I’ve never heard, “just because it’s real, don’t mean it’s gonna work.”
And this precious diamond from Bridget Lanterna Magica via papercutting wizard Jack Wittenbrink in New Orleans:
“‘How fine to think the thing that’s coming will make this calibre of good look so shabby and impoverished. You’ve seen nothing of love’s riches. And what second best for you will be richer than the likes of me shall ever see in this life. You are destined for a love that is so rare and fine, few ever get it. I wish you were a rich woman and doubted me, that I would be rich when I won a wager with you on the fortune that awaits you. You have only to choose what chocolate to first eat from a rich assortment. Only your aching heart forbids you to see this. There is nothing holding you back.’
I hope you too take these words to heart, because they are true, true, true.”
“When things fall apart, consider the possibility that life knocked it down on purpose. Not to bully you, or to punish you, but to prompt you to build something that better suits your personality and your purpose. Sometimes things fall apart so better things can fall together.” – Sandra King via Bean
It’s kind of strange to think that it took me so long to get around to getting tattooed, especially when I had wanted these particular symbols and placements for so very long. I was just waiting for the right time, and the right person, I suppose. Kai Smart at Chimera Tattoo Studio in Santa Cruz was just that very person. She did an amazing job with the white ink (which many tattoo artists eschew), and is an amazing artist, and lovely friend. It was the right time. I felt so much stronger than I had in a long while – but also ready to embrace everything I’ve been through as part of the journey. Full circle. Sitting with pain, finding a new path, a measure of grace.
First tattoos. I’ve wanted these fervently since I was about 15. They are the alchemical symbols for glass & eggshells. These elements have always been powerful materials and sigils for me. Honoring what is fragile, yet strong. Both are vessels of transformation, capable of containing a multitude of possibilities.
Glass. Earth made liquid, mutable, transparent. I think of the wonder of Greek amphorae, the precious vessels that have survived here and there, at the bottom of the ocean – somehow, for centuries. I think of windows. I remember when I first saw this symbol, it made me think of the vévé for Ayizan Velekete, the Vodou loa who serves as archetypal Mambo, or Priestess. She rules over initiations, the marketplace, divination, and herbal healing. She dresses in white, wearing an apron with deep pockets, where she keeps candy and coins for the children who flock around her in the market. Her face is hidden by palm fronds. Her name means, “Sacred Earth”. Ayzian’s veve is comprise of her initials, the “A” and the “V” intersecting across each other. It also resembles the Norse rune Ingwaz, which represents harmony, fertility and sacred marriage – with the specific message being that love, harmony or peace may be hard to achieve, but to persevere!
Eggshells. The Romans had the proverb — Omne vivum ex ovo / All life comes from an egg. The egg is an ancient symbol for the universe, for creation – it is the seed, the nurturing capsule for new life. Eggs has always been sacred to me. It is the ultimate beginning, the zero, ouroboros, tabula rasa. An egg can protect an embryo, nourish the hungry – it is fragile, and yet can withstand immense pressure. A potent symbol of fertility and promise, the egg is featured in Spring resurrection festivals. Is it any wonder I love Easter so much? There’s a superstition that instructs children to crush up their eggshells, so that witches would not be able to use them as boats, and bring tempests to the sea to drown sailors. In witchcraft, crushed eggshells are mixed with salt, and used for protection, for the drawing of circles and sigils. This is commonly called cascarilla powder, or peace powder, and is used in Santeria, Haitian voodoo, and South American folk magic.
“The present was an egg laid by the past that had the future inside its shell.”
Zora Neale Hurston
On 11.11.13, I didn’t go out to the woods. I didn’t build a fire and throw things into it, or light candles. I wished on 11:11, though, yes. I woke up early, and met with an old and dear friend. I attended to my neglected feet, and had my legs massaged and toes painted by a smiling stranger. I remember how crushing it felt last year, to go through these motions of self-care. I can recall so clearly sitting in the parking lot of a deserted shopping center in my cold car, a thin sliver of crescent moon high above, observing. I rested my head on the steering wheel, wondering if that horrible hollow feeling would ever go away. It felt like my chest was caving in under a great weight. Today, I sat in the parking lot of a different shopping center, feeling something totally different. Not riotous happiness, per se – more like a sense of being reasonably content (as well as unseasonably hot). I shopped for food for my animals, and food for myself. I bought a package of rainbow colored pens, thumbtacks and a red rosebush. Also some pansies, a cyclamen and later, a bouquet of nearly black roses. I romanced myself in mundane ways, and took care of business. I ate supper, and read movie reviews in the paper. In the evening, I sat on the porch in the gathering dusk and talked with the man who I once shared a life with, about this and that – hard things and easy things. Mosquitoes danced around our heads in thick halos. My heart did not hurt in a huge way. His face was full of shadows, clinging to his fine bones like moss, his eyes bright in the twilight. He left, after a bit, and I planted borage seeds, the air grown dark, my fingers pushing into the earth blindly. Earlier today, chatting over coffee about the all the stupid shit of life that sometimes births wonders, I said, “No mud – no lotus.” Later, I opened a gifted book (thank you, Elly…) at random to this poem:
The day lay like a pearl on her lap
she licked at it w/ the edges of her brain
The day shone in her lap like a promise
of lotuses sprouting from warm worm-eaten mud
– from LOBA by Diane di Prima
by Angeliska on November 1, 2013
One of my biggest dreams is about to come true. For years, (nearly 8 now!) I have dreamed of somehow making a Day of the Dead parade like the one that happens every year in New Orleans occur here in my hometown: Austin, Texas. Ever since Katrina blew me back this way, I’ve sought to preserve the magic that my many years in the Crescent City showed me: the incredible experience that reveling in the streets can bring, The joy of elaborate and creative costuming, and the reverence for the spirits of the dead, combined with an awareness that they are never truly far away from us.
I have a deep desire in this life to change somehow the way that we approach death and grieving in our society – whether through my interactions with individuals, or within a larger community. I also feel that the meaning of life boils down to singing and dancing while you may, and making the time and space for that to happen – especially on significant holidays, particularly in public spaces, and absolutely surrounded by likeminded folks who are ready to go on that journey together. These are acts of ritual significance that have been eroded by our modern existence – we have forgotten: how to mourn our dead, and how to express the joy of truly being in the moment, moving our bodies, our bones. I feel that helping to create a Day of the Dead Parade here in Austin (at last!) is not only something I’ve been wishing for for ages, it’s also a beautiful culmination of these two aspects of life that I’m intensely passionate about exploring and experiencing. I’ve been involved in creating special parties and events pretty much continually over the last decade of my life, and it is an act of creation that I have always perceived as a particular kind of magic making: bringing people together, casting a glamour and weaving a spell into the ambiance to ensure an evening that will be remembered. I love doing that work, but in the last year or so, my focus has shifted. I’ve felt called to quieter pursuits: reading tarot, working as a witch, and of course – writing. I want the parties I participate in not solely be only for pleasure, but also to have a deeper spiritual meaning, an anchor for the year, to mark the days that seem to spin past us like wind.
It began last winter with 12th Night. I joined forces with four of my very favorite lady dynamos to create a midwinter celebration to kick off the carnival season and shake off the dark doldrums – which it definitely accomplished, and then some!
My year would never be complete without experiencing Mardi Gras the way it’s done in NOLA, and I hope to always make that pilgrimage back to my heart’s home no matter what – but this is my home too, and it’s important to me to try and share as much of the beauty and sparkle and wisdom that I learned by the banks of the Mississippi River with all the people I love here in Texas. Holidays are sacred. There is powerful magic in paying attention to what they represent, and doing your best to do it justice. And so, it begins. New traditions, old ways: marked on the calendar, honored and delighted in. I can’t believe it’s finally happening. I hope that if you can, you’ll come and be part of it.
November 2nd traditionally marks the Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos or All Souls’ Day) which is honored in cities and villages all over the world. This year, the ladies from Krewe du Bisoux would like to bring you a special celebration of this sacred holiday, and to hopefully help this beautiful tradition have a place to blossom again, here in Austin, Texas. Inspired by the parade arts and culture of New Orleans, the procession is a big part of the magic of this holiday – bringing to mind the jazz funeral parades in Louisiana where loved ones would accompany the coffin-bearing carriage or hearse to the cemetery to be buried. The path to the boneyard was a solemn one, but upon leaving, the band would erupt in a joyous riot of dancing and music – an affirmation of life for those who must go on.
Day of the Dead is celebrated in the Bywater/9th Ward of New Orleans every year with a wild and rag-tag procession that is always somehow somber, heartfelt, and joyful all at once. The parade wends its way through the dark streets to the Mississippi River, between houses and over train tracks, carrying ashes, lanterns, photos and memories. Instead of ending at the river, our procession will be complete at Tillery Park, a new eastside locus for finding treasures, tastiness, green growing things – and much magic. There, we will will have altars set up to honor those who have passed on, inspired by many cultures, but most especially in the vein of pre-Columbian Día de los Muertos rituals honoring the Aztec goddess of the underworld, Mictecacihuatl, who keeps watch over the bones of the dead, and presides over the ancient festivals of death. Known as the “Lady of the Dead”, she has come to be represented by the elegant Catrina figure, in her feathered hat and beautiful gown, represents the equalizing power of mortality over rich and poor alike. Sugar skulls (calaveras or calacas) and other treats, such as as pan de muerto, candles, photographs and marigolds, are part of the traditional offerings on the altars for the dead, to satisfy their sweet tooths and welcome them home. We will be creating several altars at Tillery Park which we hope you will contribute to with your own special offerings.
Making sure some of our favorite customs are upheld within the community and making it something to be shared publicly, is a very important aspect for us. By taking this festival to the streets and into our neighborhood, we hope to revive an ancient tradition dear to our hearts, a remembrance of all those we have loved and lost. We aim to create a parade for dashing fellows, sparkling queens, urchins and mamas and their little ones and elders and sisters and brothers and lovers. And, of course, for our beloved dead – invoked, unseen, everywhere.
They’ll be dancing with us, through the streets of East Austin.
For more info, please check out our website: www.dayofthedeadatx.com
As a special feature of the altar & celebration at Tillery Park, we’re going to have a projected slideshow of photos of our loved ones that have passed. Guests have been invited to submit photos of their own, and have been sending in the most touching stories and images.
Hay más tiempo que vida!
ALL LIT UP: DIY PARADE LANTERNS AND TISSUE PAPER DREAMS
We also had an awesome lantern-making workshop in preparation for the parade – so many lovely folks came out and got crafty. Many gorgeous lanterns were made, and a wonderful time was had by all.
Day of the Dead in Bywater New Orleans 2012
Day of the Dead March New Orleans 2011
Posts from years before:
by Angeliska on October 30, 2013
In honor of the season, I’m making an effort to revive my honeyed treasure trove of findings and wonders from all corners of the web. I’ve been collecting little bits of spookiness and spectral delight for a little while now, and am happy to finally have a moment to share them here – beginning with the wonderful portrait Darla Teagarden took of me one sultry summer, lordy – a couple years ago, now. She’s a genius, and so amazing to work with. I felt extremely honored to have the opportunity to be transformed by her eye.
Image by Emiliano Boga
☾It’s odd, but I’ve grown snapdragons for years, and never noticed the little skulls formed by the dried pods until I saw this: The Dragon’s Skull: The Macabre Appearance of Snapdragon Seed Pods
“A couple hundred years ago, a mole was a mouldywarp or ‘dirt tosser’. These chthonic beings are suspect, or so says Leviticus. They are counted among the unclean ‘creeping things that creep on the earth.’ Apollodorus of Athens tells us that the ancients believed eating the heart of a mole would give one the gift of divination– the ability to metaphorically see into darkness, and Pliny the Elder claims moles can hear you talking about them. Moles are of the dark company, the sort that make pacts with witches. Isaiah tells us enlightened men will toss their idols of gold and silver to the moles and bats.”
But Mole stood still a moment, held in thought. As one wakened suddenly from a beautiful dream, who struggles to recall it, but can recapture nothing but a dim sense of the beauty in it, the beauty! Till that, too, fades away in its turn, and the dreamer bitterly accepts the hard, cold waking and all its penalties.
― Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows
“But now I began doing little experiments on my property. I’d been working on a book about beetles and I thought this might make a chapter. So I put out roadkill — mice, raccoon, a shrew — and then watched for who came and how nature’s undertakers — burying beetles, maggots, gorgeous green bottle flies — broke the carcass down.
The entire scene was about transformation. A mouse would die and get eaten and it became beetles. Or its molecules could become part of a hawk or an owl. I looked at a moose and a deer carcass and I was fascinated by how quickly even big things disappeared in nature.”
Death and the Patron – Preamble to the commentary on the esoteric meaning of Hieronymus Bosch’s painting Death and the Miser
“My sister and I always heard our names called. My father always said it was the wind, but the wind don’t say your name. I didn’t like going up on the third floor, that’s where I saw a man sittin’ in an easy chair. Sometimes it sounded like people were walking around the house and running down the halls. When we first moved there the floor in the back room was all cluttered with love letters. Maybe that guy died there or somethin’. That place made me feel so weird. My mother died in the house the day we were moving out; I feel like a part of her is still there. It was always cold in the house so my mother was happy we were moving to a warm place. The moving vans had just left, she was finally gettin’ out of the house and she never got out. As bad as I wanted to leave cause it’s creepy, I miss it. I’m not sure if it’s true but I heard that the man who bought it won’t stay there ’cause it’s haunted. The place has been empty for a long time.”
— Cheryl, who lived with her family in the house from the 1950s until the 1970s
☾ I want this book very, very much: Dark Spirits: The Magical Art of Rosaleen Norton and Austin Osman Spare, Dr. Nevill Drury
“Although they never met, the Australian witch Rosaleen Norton (1917-1979) and British visionary artist Austin Osman Spare (1886-1956) shared many points in common. As occult practitioners operating within the Western esoteric tradition, both artists were well versed in the literature of Western magic, Theosophy, kabbalah, Eastern mysticism, and modern psychoanalysis. Fascinated by mediæval magical grimoires, they also explored the ‘seals’ associated with elemental spirit-beings and developed unique forms of sigil magic. Perhaps even more significantly, Norton and Spare utilised their own personal techniques of self-hypnosis and trance in order to produce their distinctive visionary artworks. As this book demonstrates, there is a clear parallel between the trance states associated with the Zos / Kia cosmology of Spare and the trance magic of Norton. Profiling both artists in detail, and with in excess of 120 colour and black and white images, Dark Spirits explores the unique contributions of both Spare and Norton as visionary outsiders and is necessary reading for anyone interested in the nether regions of the magical psyche.”
Dr. Nevill Drury passed on October 15, 2013 – a last interview with him is posted at Occult of Personality.
☾ Also, I must go here one day: The History of Icelandic Sorcery
☾ Another book I’m very much looking forward to reading: The New Uncanny
‘Vampires in the Lemon Grove,’ by Karen Russell
“Bats in a cave are ‘a chandelier of furry bodies, heartbeats wrapped in wings the color of rose petals or corn silk.’”
Hope your Hallowe’en is marvelous! Here are some olden posts from spookytimes of yore: