Tag Archives: religion

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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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)

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…