Thursday, December 31, 2009

A Benign Belsnickle & Nicholas The Wizard

Once again, Will has joggled my mind, and I whisked something off of my little cabinet in the kitchen, to share with you. 

But first, I decided to go against my initial self-ban, and post a photo of a Yuletide doll here, since I myself pointed the conversation in the current direction.  Bear with me. There is a purpose.


I've had this 30+ inch Belsnickel for 6 or 7 years now, purchased at one of our local year around Christmas shops.  The artist gave him switches (which the shop owner didn't know why. .she and I are going to have a chat!),


And even a pack on his back for either coal or carting off naughty children, depending upon his mood, I guess.


However, the artist backed off on completing the character, choosing instead to make him the well loved, benevolent Santa Claus, carrying a wreath, and a wearing a compassionate face.  In studying him though, I like to think that is a ploy to lure in the naughty children, so that he can grab them with those over sized hands he has! :-)


Next, I proceeded into the kitchen, and took this off of the shelf!  He was produced by the Brown Bag Cookie Mold Co. in 1998, and was their first limited edition.  His title is "Celestial Santa".  I have a number of other cookie stamps that they produced, but has been my most treasured one, simply because of his blue and purple robes, and he is cradling the Moon in one hand, and has a staff of the Sun in the other, with stars circling his head.  And while his face is kindly, he looks like he could have a bit of spirit, a tad of spunk in him, should the need arise.

Free spirited artists have been tinkering with Santa's image off and on for some time now.  His first overhaul was back in the 1860's, when Thomas Nast took the chance, creating his interpretation of Santa for Harper's Weekly. And I do have to admit, I love the details of his illustrations, especially the early ones.

Then, in 1931, through a thoroughly commercial venture, artist Haddon Sundblom, took the reins, and created the Santa as we know him today for a Coca Cola ad!  I found this quote from Coca Cola to be intriguing:

"Before the 1931 introduction of the Coca-Cola Santa Claus created by artist Haddon Sundblom, the image of Santa ranged from big to small and fat to tall. Santa even appeared as an elf and looked a bit spooky."

. . . .looked a bit spooky. . hmmmm, for years now, various artists have played around the edges with interpreting Santa, but have never changed him like Nast did, or refined him like Sundblom's version.

Maybe now IS the time to refresh Santa once again.  With all of the increased interest in not only Halloween, but vintage Halloween, and vintage Yuletide, but in Wizards, Dragons, Faeries, Elves, Gnomes. .the whole mix.  Maybe it IS the time to put the spice back into Christmas, to bring back Santa's Companions, and the Spirits who visit in December, not just in October!   

And, this is the time of a Blue Moon! What a fortuitous sign!  William, I'm sure that I'm not the only one who would love to see you come up with a Santa that you would be happy with. .are you up to the challenge?  Are you going to be the one to lead Santa out of his saccharine saturated "traditional since the 1930's" life, and put some spunk, some mystical bite back into him?   No pressure though! lol (I'm just teasing you, although I would LOVE to see what you would create!)

But everyone here should think about it. We have some other Halloween & Holiday artists here too. Maybe it would be fun for everyone to recreate Santa in their vision.  A Santa Revolution! What fun!  Again, no pressure. Just give those creative genes a quick stir, and see what starts to form. .or not. lol

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

La Befana


As William has mentioned in the last post, there is another Folktale of a Yuletide Season character. This one coming out of Italy and Scicily, by the name of La Befana.


I was waiting to talk about her until after I had a chance to read a new children's book about her, that I recently ordered.  This one is a light hearted read, with another slight variation on the standard story, and is also illustrated by the author.

But all versions now have her delivering gifts to good children, and coal to ones that have been naughty, flying her broom down chimneys.

In trying to do some background research on La Befana, sadly, I found only one reference that her story may go back to Pagan times, when she appeared in Roman festivals as an aging Mother Nature, passing out the last of her gifts.

I found two very brief, slight references that she was initially thought of as evil, and that people would ring clay bells, and other noisemakers to keep her away. 

But like some of the others of holiday folklore fame, she too has evolved into a cheery, kind hearted, benign character, bringing gifts to children on the night of Christian Epiphany.

I also found that there are similar legends of another gentle spirit, Old Babushka, who is honored in Poland, Rumania and Russia.

While I'm delighted to have made these discoveries, I am disappointed that their full characters have been watered down to the point of being barely recognizable as their former robust selves! And this has been going on for so long, it is nearly impossible to find out their true stories.

It amazes me that here I am at 6 {mumble, mumble} years old, and am now just discovering these colorful folktales! 

Last Fall, my friend Pam, who lives in Pennsylvania, and I were comparing how there are so many more characters associated with Halloween, over those with the Yuletide season, and how much more fun they are. 

She then brought up Black Pete, and was surprised that I had never heard of him.  I thought that he was more of a regional story, but again, I was wrong!  Living here in this apparently protected cocoon in the north eastern edge of the midwest, I probably wouldn't have ever learned of these various legends, if it weren't for the internet!  Our local library has never had whatever few books have been written about them.

It makes me wonder why these characters have faded into almost oblivion. It can't be because people are afraid of scaring their children. Not with letting them watch all of the violence that they see on television and in the movies, or even the electronic games that they play!   Even that nasty looking Krampus doesn't measure up to the realistic gore that is imprinted into little minds through the media.

And I can't help but wonder how these characters would be received today, if traditions were brought to life once again.  Would new generations embrace them as something novel, or would they be pushed aside for the glitz and glamour, or declared as something from the "Dark Side" that has no place in a religious holiday celebration? 


I know the challenges that they would face within my own family.  A few years ago, I bought a rather innocent little tale of a Witch at Christmas time.

It is a fanciful, harmless little open minded story of some children who have a Witch for a neighbor, and how much fun she is, and how she winds up helping Santa deliver presents one year. 

My grown kids, with kids of their own, were aghast that I would introduce a Witch into the Christmas festivities!!  That just isn't done!! So THAT went over well! {sigh}.

While I wish that these characters (and maybe there are more that I haven't discovered yet!) would be fleshed out again, with the depth of personality that they once had, I don't see that happening.  But I'm so happy that I have met them!  It made my holiday season a lot richer!

I hope that you too made some new discoveries that have enriched your life, or at least have brought some enjoyment to you!


Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Wizard Kitty


When I first posted a photo of my Wizard Kitty on my other blog last Fall, several people expressed interest in him/her.

I wanted to let everyone know that one list now listed on eBay.  I don't know the seller, and have never done business with her, so I can't vouch for her. Nor am I getting any sort of compensation for this free ad! :-) I'm simply saying that there is one listed. 

Besides the cauldron in front, holding a votive candle, there is another in the basket on it's back, and when you light it, it makes the cat's eyes glow.  I put a red glass votive holder in the pack, so it gives the cat's eyes a red cornea with just daylight filtering through.

You can find it by searching for Windstone Editions Pena 1999 Wizard Cat, or the item number is 200422230123.

Right now, the bidding is quite low, and the shipping is reasonable, considering that this is a very heavy piece!

Good luck!




Monday, December 28, 2009

Finding The Dark Side Of Christmas


As I've previously said, this Yuletide season has been particularly hard for me to embrace, for some reason, but I've made a series of interesting discoveries this year, that showed me a new side of the celebrations that rival some of Halloween's scariest and spookiest.

First, Jeanne, over at The Candy Corn Chronicles explained the phrase "There'll be scary ghost stories" in the song "The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year", which made me immediately think that maybe Charles Dickens used those same beliefs as a basis for his "Christmas Carol", with his very familiar Scrooge being visited by 4 Ghosts or Spirits.  She shared that with us on the 15th, and then on the 26th, posted photos of her home, sharing a bit of Christmas Cheer with some Holiday Spirits of her own!  So VERY cool!!!!!

And in the interim, I made a few of my own discoveries.  I received another Belsnickel, which prompted me to realize that although I have a number of them in all forms and sizes, I really didn't know the true history of them.  I had always thought of them as being an older, European version of Santa, or Saint Nick, before the Coca Cola illustration refreshed his whole public image!

Wrong, wrong, wrong!! Today's version, commonly called a Belsnickel Santa, is a homogenized, reformed shadow of his former self, and now I look at my well meaning gifts as a bit of a fraud, created in a likeness to be appealing to the general public. 

In earlier days, his history was varied depending upon country and culture, but he was a gruff, sinister looking character, dressed in furs from head to toe, and carried switches, not evergreen trees, wreaths, flags, nor bags of toys.  He accompanied St. Nick, and either passed out the birch branches to Mothers to use on their children during the coming year, or used them on children, himself.

Then I learned that Santa had several other travelling companions.

One of them was Zwarte Piet, or Black Pete.  He was more mischevious than mean, also carrying switches to use on misbehaved children.  Again, different cultures portray him a bit differently.  Some say that he was dark skinned, while others say he was simply dark from the soot of the chimneys he went down.  Some say that he was an agent of the Devil, that Santa captured, and kept chained, and as punishment, had to accompany Santa on his deliveries. Others say that he was a slave, while others say that he was a free man, who simply helped Santa in delivering just punishment for being named on the naughty list.

But those two are nothing compared to the next two.  These I rate on the fright factor, right up there with some of the modern day horror elements that I find totally distastful for Halloween.  I'm sorry if I am offending anyone, but I don't like the way that gore and physical mutilation has worked its way into Halloween. I guess I am of the old generation of paper mache, cotton batting and tin, and letting a good imagination carry you a long way. But I digress.

These two characters make ghosts pale by comparison, and goblins look like garden faeries.


The first on MY naughty list is Le Pere Fouettard, translated to mean The Whipping Father.  He accompanied Santa, dispensing lumps of coal or flogging naughty children.  He emerged during the Victorian period, in the U.S., as Father Flog.  He and his "beloved" Mother Flog would dole out appropriate punishment for childhood "crimes", such as cutting out tongues of those that tell lies.  Not our typical image of Christmas, is it?  He wore black or dark robes, had long unkept hair and beard, and carried whips, a large stick, or twigs for whipping.  He also carried a large basket on his back for carrying away children.


And if he isn't scary enough, then a Krampus is sure to give you nightmares!
Translated to mean "claw", he travels with Santa, punishing children by Birching them with sticks. He also carries a basket on his back to carry away children and dumping them into the pits of Hell.  Krampus are still making appearances throughout Europe, today.

I'm not going to get into the psychological damage that parents inflicted upon their children, or the need to control them through blood curdling fear, but I was shocked to find out, after all of these years, that such characters existed in association with a holiday that I always viewed as nothing but excitement, glittery colors, beautiful music, family & friends, and extemely sugary fun!  


I know that I was a VERY good child growing up, probably to the point of matching Christmas in the overly sweet department, but I have to tell you, if I had to face a visit from these guys, just to get a gift from Santa, I probably would have said, thanks but no thanks!  I also always had a very active imagination, and seeing one of these guys walking in the door, would have sent me into permanent paralysis and a deep coma.  This version looks like he came straight out of Lord Of The Rings!

I would rather be visited by a nice Halloween Spirit, any time!

And now it is almost the first of the new year.  A time to start earnestly thinking about Halloween! After all, it is only 10 months away!  Nine months if you want to decorate for the whole month!  Lots of planning to do!!

So please, start the year off safely, so that you can enjoy your long anticipated Halloween season in 2010!


Happy New Year, Everyone!!!

 




Monday, December 14, 2009

Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells. . . . . .


Nope, not the wrong blog. I'm just trying to get myself in to the spirit of the holiday this year, and it isn't working. I can't figure out why, either. I usually thoroughly enjoy all of the activities. The decorating, the baking, gift making and wrapping, and yes, even the gift shopping, which I usually have done weeks or even months ahead. I normally shop all year around, favoring antique markets and boutiques.

I know why that didn't happen, and it was for multiple reasons that I won't bore anyone with, but the other mystical element that happened this year, is that I seem to be stuck in Halloween mode.  I thought that it would wear off, but it hasn't.

When I go to sleep at night, I don't have visions of sugarplums dancing in my head, but of things that go bump in the night!  Not horribly scary creatures that can make you break out in a sweat, but fanciful ones to make you smile. I dream about them, and how I create them, so now I can hardly wait for the peaceful time following all of the Fa-La-La's to have some time to try and bring my dreams to life.  I may fail miserably at it, but I hope to have some fun along the way!


In the meantime, post Halloween, I found some great deals for next year's celebration!  I found some stands of lights for outside, for $1.00 a piece, but with my coupon, it took them down to less than .50 cents a strand! I bought multiples of both styles! Love it!!


I also bought a couple of vintage repro cats on sale, which will be perfect for the middle of my spandrel, and a couple of sparkly trees.


These, I wouldn't have purchased if they hadn't been drastically reduced, because one could easily make their own. 

Buy some faded bottle brush trees, spray paint them orange, dab some glue and glitter on the ends of the branches, and glue in some black painted styro or plastic balls.

The other is a styro cone base, that has alternating black and orange garland wound around and glued. Pretty simple to make yourself!

And I even got the clock on sale. It will be perfect hanging in my kitchen above my sink!

I even found the perfect little table to go with that little set of chairs that my Witches claimed last Fall, but I haven't gotten it yet.  It is in a Christmas shop, and I'm waiting, and keeping my fingers crossed that no one buys it, and that it gets marked down after the first of the year.


THEN, my darling friend Pam, sends me a mystery box. Very light weight, standard flat priority box. .what could it be?  When I pulled out the item, it exploded!  Not with a loud bang , but with a big *Poof* !

Here is what she sent, along with a set of rules.

As members in good standing of the Black Hat Society, she thought that it proper that we have the appropriate headwear and bought us each a black, pointy hat. .a very FEATHERY black pointy hat. (I've had to hide it from my cats who think that Auntie Pam sent them a toy to play with!)  We are to send each other "things" to embellish it, and we HAVE to use whatever is sent to us, on the hat.  She is planning on wearing hers when we take a trip to Salem some day, so I have to make hers look VERY fetching! She wants me to wear mine too. .I can only hope that she will be as thoughtful in her choices for me! lol  My hubby thought that we should have to embelllish our own with the same things too.  He came up with THAT brilliant suggestion when he saw me eyeing a particularly gruesome spider that I thought would be perfect for HER hat!  I honestly don't know what prompted him to come up with that idea. *sigh*

The first thing I'm going to have to do though, is figure out a way of making the crown opening smaller. The only thing keeping it from falling completely down to my shoulders, are my glasses!  Maybe I should just cut some holes in the crown and wear it that way. That would be unique!

We have agreed to take photos of our progress, for glamour, or hiliarity, and share them on our joint blog, Spell Bynders. I'll also post mine here. 

By way of explanation, we set up Spell Bynders to showcase the Halloween art that we started formulating in our minds last winter, but life had a way of taking both of us actively in other directions for the time. But all the while we have still been conjouring up creative ideas. Now we "just" have to put them into form.


And lastly for now, I see the announcement of the Halloween Convention to be held this Spring! (the active button is on my sidebar)  I forward the notice on to Pam, and she writes back, "Let's go!" It is close to where she lives, so now, dependent upon medical appointments on my end, we are making tenative plans to attend. I'll make sure and take my camera! 


Is anyone else planning on going? Has anyone been to it before?  It looks like a lot of fun! And Spookytime Jingles art is featured this year! Now how cool is that??!!

So now see why I can't shake off my Halloween mood this year?  And I don't want to, either.  I've comfortably reconciled myself to the fact that while I'm hanging the green garland, festooned with red berries, I'm thinking in terms of black and orange!

And after all, it was during the Yuletide season, that 4 ghosts appeared, counting poor Marley, and in terms of spooky, you can't beat that!

May your Holiday Season be filled with love and laughter, and just a few mysterious delights, too!