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Samhain, Halloween, Day of the Dead

1 Nov

“End of Summer”

Samhain means “end of summer”. The Gaelic festival marked the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter. Today it is celebrated on the night between October 31st – November 1st. It is also associated with St. Martin’s day, November 11th. Some also connect it with the midpoint between the autumn equinox and the winter solstice (or the nearest full moon), when the ecliptic longitude of the Sun reaches 225 degrees.

Samain is also the name of the Celtic god of death, who from this point on ruled over the land, while the goddess of vegetation was forced to decent into darkness until the coming spring. Her parting is accompanied by the honk of the geese leaving for the South. Any herb harvested after this point would be considered harmful, save for the grey mugwort. During Samhain the doors to the spirit-/ underworld opened, and the spirits that would enter, were not always friendly. In some tales, spirits of darkness and chaos (such as the Irish Fomorians and the Crom Cruach) would be given human sacrifices.

Rural people’s survival depended on the harvest. The fear of loosing the harvest, fierce autumn storms, the long nights etc. was real. It was essential to secure the harvest and protect the home, barn and family. It was custom to cleanse and protect the home by burning herbs. Processions and rituals were performed to ward off revenants – or Wiedergänger – the returning spirits of the restless dead.

From the need to protect oneself may also have sprung the latter-day custom of placing candles in hollowed out objects. Turnips or pumpkins were turned into grimacing lanterns. Similar to the scarecrow, the lantern was to ward off ‘evil’ and at the same time its flame lit up the night. This “light in the dark” is embodied by amber, a shiny yellow  fossilized tree resin. Amber is called Bernstein in German, from Low German börnen, meaning “to burn”. The Greeks knew it as ḗlektron, from ēléktōr, meaning “shining sun”.

Samhain also marks the time when deciduous trees have shed most of their leaves. The leaves fall to the ground, decay and nurture the cycle of life. Burning their wood keeps men warm, their bark heals. Evergreen conifers deliver in addition aromatic resins with cleansing and healing properties.

“Day of the Dead”

The pagan festivities surrounding Samhain have been substituted by Christian feast days throughout a large part of the Western world. Folkloric customs continue to merge with modern consumerism. From the pagan Samhain to the Christian All Saints day, the modern world celebrates “Halloween” with plastic skulls, led pumpkins and dressing up as corpses. Everyone can be a zombie for one day or night. Halloween gives a good example for cultural appropriation gone wild. It is part of human nature, both to adopt other traditions as well as to defend one’s own culture and rituals.

One tradition that has been sinking into Western culture and heavily influences our aesthetics, is the Mexican Dia de los Muertos. As the festival in Mexico becomes bigger and is celebrated in impressive ways every year, so grows the fascination with it outside of Mexico, similar to how the cult of Santissima Muerte is growing in numbers both in and outside Mexico. The worship of death and the dead is prospering and it is nothing extraordinary.

All over the world people venerate their ancestors and saints, with altars at home, at their graves or in temples or chapels dedicated to them. Often there are special festivals dedicated to the veneration of the dead. In some countries these celebrations fall in the months of July and August, such as the Japanese Obon or the Argentinian feast for San la Muerte. In other countries they center around the days and nights spanning from All Hallow’s Eve (October 31st) to All Saints (November 1st) and All Souls Day (November 2nd).

In Germany it is custom to visit and adorn the graves of family members on the Totensonntag (the “Sunday of the Dead”). It falls on the last Sunday before the first Advent (usually at end of November) and, though of Protestant origin, is a protected holiday in all of Germany. The day is meant to be spent in silence and it is forbidden to dance or play loud music in public.

In Mexico the celebration starts on All Hallow’s Eve, when children make altars for the angelitos (the souls of dead children). November 1st is referred to as Día de los Inocentes (“Day of the Innocents”) or Día de los Angelitos (“Day of the Little Angels”), which is when the souls of dead children are honored. On November 2nd, the actual Dia de los Muertos, the graves of dead family members are visited. The graves are adorned with cempasuchil flowers, the flowers of the dead. Between the orange sea of flowers, candles are lit and Muertos (the bread of the dead) and sugar skulls are placed as offerings, along with favorite food, beverages, photos etc. The dead are greeted and welcomed back to the world of the living for one day and night. Dancing and intoxication are welcome and encouraged.

Finally within some antinomian and Gnostic traditions Lucifer or the “Bringer of Light” is worshiped and called upon during this night, e.g. by using the formula:

Lucifer, Ouyar, Chameron, Aliseon, Mandousin, Premy, Oriet, Naydrus, Esmony, Eparinesont, Estiot, Dumosson, Danochar, Casmiel, Hayras, Fabelleronthu, Sodirno, Peatham, come, Lucifer. Amen.

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Regina Bombina, Golden Bee Pendant, The Sacred Bee

14 Oct

“Regina Bombina”, ink, 2017

Totemic artwork, first show-cased at Circle1 gallery in Berlin last year. It is my homage to the great mother and queen, as she has been depicted in the form of crowned bees or half human half bee shaped spirits in ancient civilizations. She is surrounded by her servants, little bee demons.

Golden Bee Pendant, Malia, Crete, 1800-1700 BC

Honey Bee, Malia, Crete, 2018

“The Sacred Bee”, Hilda M. Ransom, Dover Press, 2004

“The Sacred Bee”, Hilda M. Ransom, Dover Press, 2004

After seeing the golden bee pendant from Malia in person, I started a new read: “The sacred Bee” by Hilda M. Ransom. It discusses the mythology and folklore of bees in ancient civilizations across the world and also features a chapter on the roll bees played in ancient Cretan life and worship practice. I am hence delving deeper into the concept behind my “Regina Bombina” and “Flower Devils“.

Away from the Paper Maze

10 Mar

Done and through with that paper hell, which kept me from crafting and being creative for the past weeks. Whatever the result of all this filling out forms and balancing numbers will be, I’m just glad to be done with it. I’m an artist, not an economist. I’ll probably never have much to live on, but therefore I’ll always be rich in spirit…

Also, and what brought some light into my life these past weeks, were friends, who just grabbed me and dragged me to events, forcing me to actually live a life, lol. That is my friend Bianchina Rê​, who invited me to see Monster Magnet​ in concert, which against all prejudices turned out one of the best gigs I’ve attended, as well as discovering a new band, Bombus​, who I’ve never heard of before but who did in fact blew the audience, myself included. And it’s damn nice to still be friends after 15 years or longer and partying as decently as we used to when still in school – or actually better, hah!

Last week, I got to attend Philipp Gloger‘s exhibition opening. I had once done portrait photos for his art catalogue and love his painting style. So last Thursday was another turn for seeing old and new works on display under the motto “Ausflug” at Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf​. It was nice to spend this evening in the company of my family (that is my parents and boyfriend) and friends and check out art. For samples of Philipp’s works go to http://www.philippgloger.de

Then Saturday was time for “Chappie​! Turns out Neil Blomkamp​ kept his promise towards DIE ANTWOORD​. This could have gone very wrong or easily could have gotten embarrassing putting the two musicians in co-starring rolls, but instead it turned out damn right and absolutely authentic, probably because Die Antwoord have always been a complex entity and it was a good choice to let them lend their own flavour to this project. This sure wouldn’t have worked with any movie but here it just fit in very well. Besides, the movie was so damn moving. I almost teared up.

Sunday we went on a photo spree in and around an old water works building. The weather was amazing and we got a few nice shots. This is the first time in ages for me photographing in a team! My boyfriend made panorama shots with his new phone, I used my Canon and our friend used a Nikon camera. I’m very excited to see and compare the results! Also, I handed over a photo from my “Tree Lights” series printed on wooden board…

Monday evening we attended a reading at Militärhistorisches Museum der Bundeswehr Dresden​. The topic of the evening was the bombing of Dresden in 1945, as experienced by the novelist Erich Kästner​. Records of the events were shown in the form of manuscript pages and postcards exchanged between Kästner and his mother. It was very interesting, the descriptions sure sending shivers down my spine. Even a man of such literary skill and diversity battled finding words for describing the scale of devastation brought about in less than 1 hour… Leading through the evening were Dr. Ulrich von Bülow (Deutsches Literaturarchiv Marbach) and poet Durs Grünbein​, a former class mate of my mom, who has been awarded the Georg Büchner Preis amongst others, and who also read from his own books… back home I read half of his 49 stanza poem “Porzellan“, an attempt at reflecting and reconstructing the late WWII events and scenery, which more or less erased Dresden from the maps… The big question, not WHO, but HOW and WHY could this happen?

There is much food for thought and yet my mind is again filled with completely different things… there is a new sigil that wants to be brought to paper, I still have to fix the “Regina prints and with the solar eclipse ahead I am also planing to finally make available a few Lilith– and Regina-specific incense blends, which I’ve been working with for years, but never shared as of yet…

And least I forget my recent commission works… life proceeds at a high speed. I just took a short break to type this up. Photos and more detailed reports to follow…

Auferstehungskirche

9 Jan

We spent this New Year’s in a small church in Dresden Plauen. It’s been my dream to see this church from the inside for years. I was told it had a beautiful art nouveau interior but little could I know… The history of this church dates back to the 12th century. There are still Gothic and Baroque elements to be found. E.g. the baptismal font and crucifix over the lectern date back to the 17th century. The main building is however a unique example of Art Nouveau architecture. It was built at the beginning of the 20th century under architects Lossow and Viehweger. The church, which was formerly known as Michaeliskirche, was then renamed and is since called Auferstehungskirche. Angel faces all around the quire remind of the church’s former name. Apart from the windows and church bells the building was not damaged during WWII. On the 1st of July 1945 the Dresdner Kreuzchor gave here their first concert after the war. During the 50ies the stucco of the entire choir was removed and the windows bricked up. In 1985 a new organ was installed behind the front of the old organ. After 1989 the windows around the choir were re-opened and the walls painted new. The altar room also received new windows, which were designed by artist Wolfgang Korn (Dresden). Lastly the tower and roof were restored. Today the church counts amongst the most beautiful churches of Dresden. The wooden art nouveau elements are indeed a special treat and remind of the wood carvings found in stave churches. I do in fact not know any other church that would show a similar, almost cinematic architecture, which came to life even more, when the organ started playing…

Christmas Rose

14 Nov

“Then he who is about to dig out the plant turns to the East and prays that it may be accounted lawful for him to do this and that the gods may grant him permission.” – Pliny the Elder

Folklore: East is where the sun rises and considered to be the place in heaven where the good spirits dwell. According to Christian tradition the dead are buried facing East, which is the direction from which Jesus is believed to arrive on the day of the resurrection in order to take them with him into the kingdom of heaven. But already before the Christian custom pagans would bury their dead so they would face the rising sun.

“One part hellebore with as much artemisia placed beneath a diamond gives animosity and audacity, guards the members [of the wearer] and makes victorious over what you wish.” – Hermes Trismegistus, 15 Fixed Stars 15 Herbs 15 Stones and 15 Figures

According to Hermes Trismegistus black hellebore is attributed to the fixed star Algol, together with the diamond. Agrippa connects the plant further to Mars and places it also under the rule of Saturn:

“Hellebore is dedicated to Mars and the Head of Algol.” – Agrippa

In ritual, hellebore may be burnt for consecrating Saturnian talismans and conjuring spirits of Mars. Christwurzel is also a key herb in Faustian rites of exorcism and coercion, along with garlic and sulfur:

“Carry with you Aaronis and also Hellebore, so that he [the demon] cannot delve into you or possess you.” – Dr. Faust, Magia Naturalis et Innaturalis

The name Christmas Rose comes from its auspicious time of flower or from the Christian legend that it sprouted from a young girl’s tears fallen on the snow, when she was sad that she had no present for the Christ child in Bethlehem. Another legend tells of the goddess Freya, who rescued an abandoned child during a deadly cold winter night by transforming it into a hellebore flower. Hellebore is also a symbol of innocence. It was considered holy and believed to ward off evil spirits, help heal the black death and safe pigs from swine flu if a helleborus flower was placed on the animal’s ears.

The name hellebore is composed of the Greek word ellein = to injure and bora = food, whilst the Latin adjective niger = black, may refer to the color of the plant’s root, which is almost black when dried. The German name Nieswurz refers to its use in sneezing powders. In medieval medicine it was a cure against demonic possession. The plant has a long tradition in healing madness and epilepsy (also called the ‘divine disease’ if a person was possessed by a demon): Ovid writes in his Metamorphoses of the three daughters of king of Argos, who had been driven mad by Dionysos and were screaming and running naked all across town, being cured by the healer Melampus of Pylos with a drink of hellebore solved in milk. Hence the herb was also known by the name Melampodium. Alexander the Great on the other hand is said to have died of an overdose of medication containing hellebore. During the Siege of Kirrha 585 BC, the Greek were said to have poisoned the city’s water supply with hellebore and waited until the enemy was too weak to be able to defend it any longer due to the diarrhea caused by the plant’s poison.

Pliny the Elder mentions the existence of an opposite to the Black Hellebore (Helleborus niger), with the ‘White Hellebore’ or ‘False Helleborin’ (the plant referred to is probably Veratrum album).

Gallery

The Electorial Chapel

13 Nov

Meißen Windows

11 Nov

In October we also visited Meißen. I was especially happy to finally get to see the Dome from inside. Above is a selection of photos of from this short trip. For this post I chose windows as a main theme, inspired by a photo taken through the distorted window glass inside the castle and the details on a gothic window flanked with arrows..