Wednesday, December 28, 2016
Recently, a majestic oak on one of my routes was taken down. To be fair, it seemed to be diseased, but I couldn't help feeling sad, wondering how long it had stood there, with a neighborhood growing up around it. It reminded me of a Tanith Lee story, 'The Tree: A Winter's Tale', about a tree that was due to be taken down, but the family of the house kept reliving the same day over and over, and not in a funny, Groundhog Day kind of way either, so that the tree would stand forever. Recently, Peter Wohlleben's book, The Hidden Life of Trees, explained the nature of trees and how they communicate.
So here is some folklore on trees you should be wary of.
BIRCH: Witches' brooms were made from its branches. It is called the Lady of the Woods in Celtic folklore and walks at night. The birch spirit is feared and adored and causes death to those she touches. Check out The Birch, a great short film on YouTube.
ALDER: Walpurgis tree. Associated with elves, water spirits, the Erl King and his daughter. Alder wood turns red when cut and resists decay. The wood was used for divining instruments. The tree often grows near Saints' wells. As for witches, red-haired ones loved it, and red dyes made from alder sap were used by Italian witches.
ELDER: Threshold trees. Guard the home from evil. An elder wood walking stick will protect a traveler. Associated in Native American and Celtic folklore with the Elder Mother. Also with the Scandinavian Mother Hulda. It's friendly to humans. Fingernail parings, hair, and teeth were buried beneath it to keep from them from being used in bad magic. And don't forget elderberry wine!
ELM: Another witch tree, but also a tree of the Goddess. The Romany made magic wands from its wood. Coffins were also once built from the timber. It dislikes people and is an entry into the land of the dead. In some folklore, it is said the first woman was created from an elm. It's also linked with Dionysus because it was planted in vineyards.
FIG: Inhabited in Greece by the fauni ficarii, the dusois, dangerous spirits that take the forms of nymphs and satyrs. In Sicilian folklore, fall asleep beneath a fig, wake up confronted by the figure of a nun with a knife. It's also a fertility tree. In Muslim myth, the tree is associated with knowledge. It's the tree under which Buddha received his enlightenment. In Africa, the fig houses dead ancestors.
HAWTHORN: The May tree. A fairy thorn. The blackthorn is guarded by Lunantishee fairies. In Ireland, a road was re-routed in 1999 to avoid taking down a whitethorn said to be sacred to the Sidhe, the dangerous Irish fairies. Never bring a hawthorn blossom indoors because it causes bad luck. In Welsh folklore, it is associated with the malevolent chief of the giants. Also the tree of enforced chastity, hence the May tree.
OAK: Turn your cloaks
For Fairy Folks
Are in old oaks
Tree of Zeus. It attracts lightning. It's the guardian of otherworldly doors--an opening between two oaks leads to Faerie. The sacred oak king became a sacrifice in some cultures. It is the Druids' tree and the dryads' tree. It's a protector. Acorns were worn by witches for protection against bad spirits. It's friendly to humans...well, except maybe the old oaks. In their case, watch your back.
WILLOW: A fertility tree. A water tree. It wards off snakes. It's the Goddess's tree, associated with Persephone and Artemis. The Greek enchantress Circe had a grove of willow trees. It's a dangerous tree, said to walk during moonlit nights. Willow wands channel energy. It's bark contains salicylic acid, which is a natural painkiller and used in aspirin.
YEW: A healing tree. It contains an element currently being used for curing breast cancer. It is Hecate's tree, a witch tree, and hostile to people (though perhaps not to women, considering). Some trees grow to be hundreds of years old and it is often found in churchyards. Its wood was once used for archery bows, shields, and spears.
So walk carefully among these trees, and be careful of the ones that might strike out.
The Element Encyclopedia of Witchcraft by Judika Illes
The Element Encyclopedia of Secret Signs and Symbols by Adele Nozedar
The Ultimate Fairies Handbook by Susannah Marriott
Friday, December 16, 2016
I love art as much as I love writing and music, but my ultimate favorite artists, aside from the Symbolists, are the female surrealists. You might have heard of Dali, Max Ernst, and Magritte, but a few of their associates, including the famous Frida Kahlo, were amazing artists in their own right. Mysticism, the Goddess, animals, nature, and feminist themes are predominant in their works, which are all deeply personal representations of their imaginations.
Born in Buenos Aires and disguised in childhood as a boy by her mother (to avoid being found by her father), Leonor moved to Paris in the late 1930s. She knew Max Ernst and Jean Genet. Sphinx-like and mysterious, she had an affinity for felines. She lived with two men at one time, both her lovers. Her paintings are ritualistic, fascinating, erotic, inspired by the Symbolists and the Pre-Raphaelites. They are fairy tales. There's even a song written about her by Katell Keineg.
I love her self-portrait with a delicate black hyena and a white rocking horse. She had a fondness for Celtic and Mayan mythology and even lived in Mexico, married to Max Ernst. Most of her paintings are fantasy scenes of delicate, human-looking creatures, heavy with symbology. She also wrote Surrealist fiction.
Her paintings are disturbing renderings of womanhood and adolescence. Born in Illinois, she read Alice in Wonderland and the Gothic authors to escape what she considered a boring, Midwestern life. She moved to New York, where she eventually met Max Ernst (He got around) and became his lifetime companion.
Alchemy, owls, and forlorn, attenuated people, were Remedios's totems. Her paintings are delicate and child-like. She was born in Madrid and eventually settled in Mexico. The spirit world lurks just beneath the surface of her paintings.
Women Artists and the Surrealist Movement by Whitney Chadwick
Surrealism and Women by Mary Ann Caws, Rudolf Kuenzli, Gwen Raaberg
Wednesday, December 7, 2016
Each of these gorgeous entries is copyrighted by the authors. Read the stories and enjoy!
GRAND PRIZE: SHVETA THAKRAR
When the poison sank into his bones, he gasped at the mirror. She had drawn on him, scrawled secrets, all graceful loops and fine lines. Hers was a venom no less deadly than truth; she'd shaded and cross-hatched until half his skin dissolved, revealing another's rich brown flesh.
Another time, another life. Him. He remembered now--her virtuous nature, his restless heart. Hands knotting, he collapsed onto the cold checkered floor.
Across the hall, the Scarlet Scourge smiled. "You wanted to know who you are. Once you loved me. Then you left me. Now? Now you, too, break in half."
FIRST PRIZE: KENNEDY CANNON
My darling one,
He saw you beneath the moonlight
With lips like poison berries--
And hair like knotted twigs,
So you drew him close,
Planted seeds beneath his skin,
Allowed your thorns
To make their home there.
He wrote you poetry
Scrawled in blood and brought you roses
Red as sin,
And you watched them decay,
My purest one,
Turn to nothing,
While he worshiped you
Until his knees cracked
Beneath the weight of his love
And he could no longer stand.
And then what did you do,
My virtuous one?
You broke his heart in two.
SECOND PRIZE: DONAVAN MCRAE
I can taste the poison . . . He told us not to eat from this tree, he warned us. He warned us, Eve! We were supposed to Live a Virtuous life, true to HIM. That is what HE scrawled across our hearts. LOOK AT US NOW! The poison has transformed me. My beautiful skin has begun to lighten and the very thought of it leaves a knot in my throat. But that is not my biggest fear. My fear is that HE will find me and see what I have done, see you covered in red and know that it was me.
THIRD PRIZE: PAMELA WYATT
I couldn't help looking at her milky white skin. My God she was beautiful. But I know if I go to her and kiss her full red lips, I would taste the poison that would seep into my virtuous soul and devour it; destroying what goodness was left inside me.
As the knot in my stomach grew with anticipation, all hesitation and doubt left me. I looked in the mirror before me one last time to scrawl the words, "remember me." I slowly walk to her and glide my hands down her naked back and remove the rest of her red velvet dress.
She looked at me with those beautiful chestnut eyes and smiled. I took a hesitant breath and leaned in to kiss her. I could feel the venom slide down my throat and burn the inside of my body. I slowly pull back and whisper breathlessly, "I love you." Then everything went black as I slid to the ground as my soul burned away to leave me as one of the damned.
"This is what you were.
In the hours that my fingers pulled the knot out of your skin and slid kisses out of your hair, you wore a dripping red dress to wreck me. To poison me and hurt me as I watched you walk along that marble floor to go out the window.
I'll remember the scrawl of a life we didn't get enough of poking out along your back, the fire that we kept down when our bed would have been the place to hold the flames.
Just remember you were a virtuous woman who deserved the world."
PANCHALI DEVI WALFORD
The skin on his back was winter white and the scrawl on his shoulder rotted red. He couldn't see it in the mirror, not then anyway, but the rot clung to him. She had said it was a mark of The Virtuous. That it would show others that the poison had left him. His lips quirked into an ugly shape and he resisted the urge to spit. Pulling a lock of hair from his temple, he wound it into a knot and placed it in his mouth and under his tongue. Her back still faced him and he swallowed.
He watched her walk away with a knot in his stomach. She knew what she was doing to him. She had scrawled invisible words on his skin while she whispered love and poison in his ear. He had been known as a virtuous man before he got involved with her. He couldn't break free from her now. He was tied to her with an invisible cord. Maybe by the words she wrote. Either way, he was hers.