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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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Sacred Space

10 Jul

A space, empty. A place for contemplation. A prayer room, a modern “church” if you will. The human is confronted with the present, the past, the future – ultimately the inevitable end of it all – and what will be left. There is a black figure of death, a red candle and behind the figure is a large painted canvas. The painting has a vertical format. The colors are merely shades of dim grays on a muted white. Forms dissolve in white mist. A thorn tree is barely visible in the distance. To the right of the statue is a small potted tree. The statue carries a rosary made of seeds and is mounted on a small reliquary box made of dark wood. There is a censer for burning copal, frankincense and aloeswood. The walls to the left, right and in the back are empty. The individual enters to face himself and the inevitable.

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…

Die Antwoord, Berlin

26 Jan

23 January 2015

Back from Berlin. I didn’t take a single photo, but we did have a good time. Remember, I was quite sick again beginning of this week. So it was risky, but there was simply no way of missing out on Die Antwoord! The concert had been sold out for weeks, ticket prices sky-rocketed on Ebay. For me it was revisiting some childhood nostalgia, like really childish childhood period, haha! >:-)

So we went. Travel was not particularly smooth, with a broken tire 10 min before arrival but we had enough time. Arriving in Berlin, it was damn cold and windy. Imagine railway stations and an icy wind constantly blowing. It was rather uncomfortable. But therefore we had a really nice place to stay.

On the way to the concert hall we got stuck again due to some demo and police cordoning off part of the area where our train had to pass. In a way it was one of the many instances occurring this week I’d connect to Mercury retrograde…

We arrived 20 min late at Columbiahalle, where people had been gathering outside and were hardly moving forward, even though doors were said to open by 8pm. It took over one hour of freezing in the cold until we finally got inside. The concert hall was full packed with people at the time we entered. And I spent another 20 min in a waiting line until I could finally hand in our jackets at the cloakroom.

Die Antwoord had already entered the stage when I was finally back in the audience. Like all their other German concerts this one had been sold out and the place was really full packed. The show was great though. With each song we could venture forward and by the middle of the concert, had ended up close to the stage. People were jumping around and crowd surfing like crazy. At times the whole crowd was jumping up and down synchronously, even the folks on the balcony. It looked mad. We were waiting for someone to jump or fall down (which didn’t happen.)

Die Antwoord played all their known hits and the show was choreographed in large parts. There was plenty of twerking combined with 90ies style dance moves. The chaotic elements were first and foremost Ninja’s stage diving actions and the audience’s responses. The whole show was a single burst of energy with no particular lows. A climax was certainly “Fok julle naaiers“. On one of the banners was scribbled “Hello Charlie” along with a little devil face, which made us smile.

We were definitely most impressed by Ninja’s rapping. Altogether the show and level of professionalism was greater than I’d expected and certainly worth the ticket and travel. But it was the crowd that made this event really special.

Enter the Ninja” was the scheduled bonus for the night, with a little blond girl entering the stage and performing the choreography from the video alongside Yolandi. They were certainly also making a point with taking a kid on stage, where the main message was “fuck your rules”. Die Antwoord are in a way children themselves, or addressing the child within with their music. Which is totally okay. It made us feel like 16 ourselves (or even younger, haha). And I was crazy enough to spend 40 bucks on a tour shirt (the last in size S). Usually I wouldn’t do this (and even less can I afford it), but this shirt is now a reminder of that child within – and also it does look pretty zef. >:)

Besides, the day after we visited the Berlin museum of natural history. The museum has some of the biggest known dinosaur skeletons on display, which was another reminder of a childhood fascination of mine (for a while I had my walls plastered with dino posters). But there were tons of other awesome things, like thousands of stuffed animals and specimen preserved in glass jars… the room with the jars was tangibly colder and in the dim light all the glasses, with pale serpentine and coiling fish specimen piled up to the ceiling, reminded of some freakish Frankenstein horror cabinet.

Still in awe we spent the evening with our lovely host until taking the bus back to Dresden. I slept like a stone and there were certainly some of the experiences from these days entering my dreams…

Today we took it easy and went for a walk to a nearby castle. There was moss all over, and strange masks carved in stone… it’s that type of old, abandoned building that makes for a perfect horror movie setting. I wonder what it would be like to live there…

But it’s late and I must end this brief written summary. No photos this time, you’ll have to use your imagination…

All Hallows 2014

7 Nov

All Hallows is amongst others a time to remember your Dead and be receptive for the messages they communicate from the other side. I have previously blogged about the season and thinning of the veil that usually separates the worlds of the living and the dead. This post is about the actual period known as Allhallowtide, or more famously Halloween, which is celebrated on October 31, and the following nights of All Saints and All Souls, which are commemorated successively on November 1 and 2. These celebrations have a Christian background, though Halloween is often also viewed to have originated from Pagan harvest festivities, particularly the Gaelic Samhain. All have in common an occupation with death and the souls of the dead. Hence skulls and ghoulish appearances are a prominent theme during Halloween. Halloween could be translated as the ‘eve of the hallowed ones’ – the holy or good dead, spirits and saints of Christian faith. However, these long nights are also seen as a time of mischief and in pagan tradition they mark the beginning of the Wild Hunt, a fearsome and dangerous time associated with fateful events.

During these nights it is common to light candles and serve offerings for the dead. These customs find a climax in the Mexican celebrations of the Dia de los muertos, Day of the Dead, when the cemeteries turn into oceans of light, offerings of sugar skulls and pan de muerto, bread of the dead, are placed on graves and home altars, people dress up as skeletons and identify consciously with their dead and the skeletal saints Santa Muerte and la Calavera Catrina. (These customs may be rooted in but are actually far removed from Aztec times, when gruesome deities such as Mictlantecuhtli and Mictecacihuatl were feared and appeased with bloody sacrifices). Today’s day of the dead customs are mostly influenced by Catholicism and similar practices exist in other parts of Latin America and catholic parts of Europe.

I have been impressed and moved by the intensity and beauty of these celebrations since the first time I learned about them, and feel an urge to create a similar atmosphere in my place of living. Actually we too have a time for commemorating the dead, which is Totensonntag, the last Sunday before Advent. This is when we visit the graves of our dead relatives, grandparents and great-grand parents. But in my practice I also relate to the Dead that I once shared a part of my life with and the so-called Mighty Dead, which are much older spirits that act as spiritual guides and idols. For me these three nights of Allhallowtide are a time to relate to and honor these Dead and to do so I adopted some of the practices from the Mexican festival, some of which have been taught to me by friends and so another aspect of following these customs is carrying on a tradition.

Below you can see the offerings placed outside on my window bench. They consist of grave candles (which are weatherproof and indispensable during the stormy autumn nights), normal candles (which may or may not burn, depending on the weather), bread of the dead shaped into preferred forms and sweetened with honey, pomegranate (a reference to underworld deities such as Hecate and Persephone), orange or other type of fruits, e.g. figs, Vervain strewing herb and a glass filled with fresh water. Later I also added a pumpkin-lantern, into which I carved a Teufelskunst devil, to strengthen the flame that keeps me and my artistic work alive:

These offerings are left for as long as the candles keep burning (e.g. 72 hours) and then brought to a graveyard or a remote place in the forest, ideally where they won’t be removed by third parties, just so the souls can ‘feed’ on them undisturbed. And again in this case these offerings are not related to ones normal dead relatives and hence are not placed on those graves, but rather a neutral yet powerful spot is chosen, such as a crossroad, in front of a large tree or cross. Additional candles are lit, incense burnt and through silent or spoken prayers the tie between oneself and the spirits is renewed and strengthened.

Now I hope this post is helpful to my readers and especially those, to whom this festival (and my obsession with it) occurs as strange. Respect the work and you may prosper from it as well.

Update: I am adding some useful links on the topic below. The list shall grow as I find time and inspiration to add more…

Beloved Green

3 Sep

Some impressions from our garden as summer is coming to an end… it was raining a lot as of late and temperatures have been dropping below 10°C at night. I am busy almost every day, collecting herbs, seeds and flowers for different purposes. My room is thus looking like an extension of our garden… full of herbs hung up or laid out for drying.

Back in the Craft and Summer News

23 Jun

First off thanks once more for all the lovely birthday wishes! It’s been some days ago, but so what… This year I celebrated with my childhood friend, watching “Zeit der Kannibalen” at the movies and at midnight having a glass of champagne – thanks to the waitor, who spontaneously donated it! The day was spent with my mum and dad and I actually used it for crafting the slip-cases you see here.

 

Now I’ve been fairly busy, creative but not very crafty during the first part of this year apart from some commission work. However this ought to change during the coming months. And to celebrate the summer’s solstice I am starting with the first card set of my plant sigils. 🙂 I actually brought these with me for the London Magical Arte event earlier this year. Back then I had printed the cards but not yet made a nice packaging for them. So… I made slipcases with paper bought from my local bookbinder. These look nicer than the previous boxes and are easier to store on one’s bookshelf. The first two card sets have been sent out beginning of this month, one went to Italy and the other to Australia. Now I am doing a small summer solstice edition, which can be ordered next month. If you wish to have one please message me at info@teufelskunst.com. The price is 31 Euro for one set consisting of 40 cards + 4 colored postcards. For more info see the website teufelskunst.com/art/card-sets….

What else is on? Beginning of July I might be involved in a photo-documention for an environmental assessment. This is something I am greatly looking forward to.

Until the end of this month I am also finishing my article and artistic contribution for Pillars 1.III – I can hardly await how the journal will turn out this year! So once it’s out I will also have new stuff to share here.

PS: Forgot to mention we spent a few days in Freiburg, checking out the historic parts of the town, the botanical garden and a handful of museums… (pics to follow). Meanwhile here’s me in the new dress that my mum tailored for me:

My boyfriend took the photo during our stay at the beautiful gardens of Kloster St. Lioba.

So long, thanks again for all your support! Have a nice summer and take care!