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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.

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Die Toten Kommen (the dead are coming)

28 Jun

Die Toten Kommen

If you are wondering about the grave-cross photo I posted last night, here is the background story: the “grave” is part of a nation-wide campaign against European refugee policy. Berlin art group, “Zentrum für Politische Schönheit”, calls out to create awareness and establish artificial graves all across Germany and Europe in memory of the unknown refugees that died when trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea. Part of the campaign is also the transferring of bodies of dead refugees to Germany for giving them a proper burial and giving relatives the possibility to say goodbye in a respectful manner. Their activism is of course not welcomed by the German government. However people all across the country and the EU can take part in the activities that aim to create awareness, as opposed to ignorance and looking away from what is happening at the Southern European border.

It was a surprise to find this “grave” last night. I’m occasionally lighting grave-candles here in necromantic cross-road workings. I’m usually honoring Hecate and other, known and also unknown dead, e.g. I also give offerings to anonymous dead. Now I come here and find a grave with offerings, looking so familiar. I really do support the cause behind it.

“Die Toten kommen ” (The dead are coming) – the motto is to be taken literal. If you want to support the efforts made to give the dead a proper burial right there, where it hurts politicians the most, please consider donating: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/die-toten-kommen#/story

In turn for donations you can chose to receive art items, postcards, posters, shirts etc.

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…

New Year’s 2015

5 Jan

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I spent my New Year’s in a church and I liked it.

I’m from Dresden. That’s the town famous for its late baroque pomp and for being bombed to ashes at the very end of WWII. It’s also known as “Tal der Ahnungslosen” due to the geographical location, which made it difficult to receive tv from Western Germany during GDR times. It is also known for people protesting peacefully on the streets, which eventually lead to the events that brought down the Wall. In 1989 the motto “Wir sind das Volk” was used because people yearned for more freedom, equality and unity. It was motivated by positive ideals and hope. 25 years later people are protesting again on Dresden’s streets. They are using the same motto, but the motivation is a different one. People are now driven by fear, frustration and hatred. Interviews with single participants of these “silent protest marches” show how diverse the motifs are. Social injustice ranks high, amongst fears of being outnumbered, underprivileged. People are troubled with various problems. The actual motto of these demonstrations occurs almost secondary to the participants, but it is this motto, which is now being perceived world-wide: “against the Islamification of the Christian Western civilisation”. The main motif, which is carried forth on banners and in news headlines is xenophobia. The individual motivations of the people do not make the headlines.

In other countries people protest for freedom, justice and a better education. The message is clear and unequivocal.

In Germany people are apparently unable to formulate their actual concerns or they feel not taken serious if they do. Instead people now march under the banner of “PEGIDA”. It is a motto that the biggest number of the participants of these protests does not support. Yet they decide to follow it for whatever reason. The message on that banner is clear and there is no way of trying to relativize it. This is tragic and we have seen before where such passive followership can lead.

I truly hope that most of the people participating in these protest will come to senses and choose the right language for their goals. Preserving our values is indeed something to stand up for. But it is even better done by contributing one’s part and being a good example, whether you’re an artist, architect, dental technician, engineer, gardener, hair stylist, waiter/waitress, university professor or unemployed. It starts with yourself and good manners. It continues with being nice to others.

So what did I do this New Year’s? I was in fact still sick with tonsillitis and had been on antibiotics since the weekend. I felt weak and in a situation where help, love and comfort are needed. I’m extremely grateful to have two loving parents and friends that care for me in such situations. I’m grateful there was a doctor on Saturday morning to have checked me and prescribed the necessary medication. I’m grateful also, to have spirits to call upon and pray to in such a situation.

I do in fcat believe in god and a higher cause. I am interested in the essence behind the religious forms of all sorts of traditions, which are a continuous inspiration in my art. I take from all places and I pick out the best for myself. I feel this is the natural way to do in life.

We (that is my parents and me) spent this New Year’s in a small church in Dresden Plauen. This in itself felt like a little miracle and it would have sounded like an impossibility if you would have told me a few weeks ago. But this is another story and here we were. It’s been my dream to see this church from the inside for years. And little could I know of how beautiful its art nouveau interior really was…

The pastor made a very short speech, welcoming the guests, introducing the organist, Andreas Jud, a young, award-winning musician from Switzerland, and then wished us all a Happy New Year. The rest of the evening was music. No talk, no politics, no agendas. Just the organ in full blast, the organist giving his very best. And every attendant was left to his own thoughts and contemplations.

With this in mind I wish all my followers and friends all the best for 2015.

(more photos of the church to follow in my next post)

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

More of Meißen: The Dome

13 Nov

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…