Icelandic Folk Art:

Famous Icelandic artist Jóhannes Sveinsson Kjarval (1885-1972). He is well known for his landscape paintings with an abstract or cubist touch with symbolist elements mixing myths and elves into the landscape.

Below 2,000 kr. banknote with Kjarval’s image on it.

2000 Icelandic Krona

Source & Reference:

*Saatchi Gallery online: https://www.saatchigallery.com/museums/museum-profile/Reykjavik+Art+Museum/615.html

*Featured image of The Sisters of Sapi, 1948 by Jóhannes Sveinsson Kjarval

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Pagan Roots of Valentine’s Day

Most of us have heard of the Christian St. Valentine priest that was martyred for attempting to influence Roman pagans to adopt Christianity beginning in 269 CE.

In fact there were a few of them that were martyred. Looking back through our crystal balls we see further into a pagan history  and lore of February 14th and 15th. Romans celebrated Juno Februata also known as Juno Fructifier, Queen of the Roman deities. One noted tradition was for a man to draw a woman’s name from an urn filled with female names. Once drawn, the chosen female would couple with the male who chose her name for a year. This was to celebrate and encourage fertility.  Quite a party indeed!

Below photo of a (Bronze Wolf Head 1st Century)

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On February 15th the Romans also celebrated Lupercalia revering Lupercus also known as Faunus meaning “The Wild One.” He is a woodland spirit depicting the wildness of nature and fertility of the people. He is presented as Saturn’s grandson.

His sister Fauna also known as Fatua and Bona Dea meaning “Good Goddess.” She was the keeper of Mysteries, a woman only event. Her initiates were women.

The festival of Lupercalia began with priests of Faunus called Luperci turn up at the cave on the Palatine, the alleged spot where the she-wolf was said to nurse Romulus and Remus. Next the Sacrifice of male goats and dogs were offered up by the Luperci priests and the meat eaten by them. The Luperci would anoint themselves with goat’s blood while sporting “Juno’s Cloak,” crafted with torn patches of goat skin. They and their chosen youths would carry about the Palatine cracking folks with their whips on their hands. If a woman was struck with a whip, it was believed she would most likely become fertile and conceive a child. The Lupercalia ended in 494 CE. I’m sure the goats and dogs were grateful.

Circle_of_Adam_Elsheimer_The_Lupercalian_Festival_in_Rome

The Lupercalian Festival in Rome (ca. 1578–1610), drawing by the circle of Adam Elsheimer, showing the Luperci dressed as dogs and goats, with Cupid and personifications of fertility. Public Domain.

Later thanks to romantics like Geoffrey Chaucer who wrote the first Valentine’s Day association with romantic love in Parlement of Foules 1382. His poem was written in honour of the first anniversary of the engagement of King Richard second of England to Anne of Bohemia.

Over time Valentine’s Day transitioned into a billion dollar retail business from sales of  roses, chocolates and Valentine cards. Eros the Greek god of erotica who was known to carry two arrows. One was made out of gold to initiate love and the other arrow was made of lead for rejection. Legend dictates that Eros once shot the Greek god Apollo with a gold arrow to fall in love with a nymph named Daphene. However, trickster Eros shot Daphene with a lead arrow so she would detest and reject Apollos’ advances. Quite a practical joker!

Cupid, was given by the Romans to the cherub angels named Putti crafted by artists during the Renaissance. Folks began sending Valentine cards to each other in the 17th century where the infant Cupid image stuck.

Below, Cupid Riding on a Dolphin (1630) by Erasmus Quellinus II

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Roses were the favoured flower of Venus the Roman goddess of love and fertility. “Queen of the Flowers!” named by the poet Sappho. the rose is known to be the purest of flowers. The origin of roses began 3000 years ago in Iran. The rose bud stands for strong affection. Place a few Red rose petals to attract love under your pillow when you retire for the evening. Pink roses are to enhance friendships. White rose petals under your pillow will prevent nightmares.

Chocolates, (my favorite!) became a popular Valentine gift over time. In 1868, Cadbury the British chocolate company created Fancy Boxes, which were decorated boxes of chocolates in the shape of a Valentine’s Day heart. Photo below in Public Domain.

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Jewelery became a popular gift to receive on this special day. If you are single, do something delightful for yourself like a Spa day or purchase your favorite chocolates.

You’re worth it!

If your birth date is in February up until the 19th you are born under the Air sign of Aquarius. Your birthstone is Amethyst and your flowers  are Violet, Iris and Primrose.

A June birthday has the red rose that represents love and fertility by Juno. Roses bloom in June.

Why  give a dozen Roses? A red rose represents the giver’s love to their beloved for each month of the year.

Roses a dozen

 

No matter how you celebrate, Happy Valentine’s Day!

 

 

Written by Nifty Bryn Buckles

 

 

Source & Reference:

  • North, John. Roman Religion. The Classical Association, 2000, pp. 47 online and 50 on the problems of interpreting evidence for the Lupercalia.
  • Beard, Mary; North, John; Price, Simon. Religions of Rome: A History. Cambridge University Press, 1998, vol. 1
  •  Meaning of flowers 2000 Archived 2008-02-20 at the Wayback Machine
  • Roses in vase photo in Public Domain
  • Beautiful Spring Girl – background Herbert Dawson, (id-1480350272)

 

Plant Lore: Angelica

Angelica grows wild in the Scandinavian countries also in Greenland, Russia and Iceland. During the 10th century it was cultivated as a medicinal plant and as a vegetable. Angelica became popular by the 12th century even the Vikings used it sometimes as currency since it was known for its’ medicinal healing of influenza, colds and thought to help heal folks from the Black Plague. The Sami  people of Lapland used this special plant to flavor their Reindeer milk. It was also used for Shamanic rituals.

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How did Angelica receive its name? Legend has it that a 17th century monk bestowed the name Angelica on this unique plant after he had a dream which he was visited by a mighty archangel who offered it for healing. It’s essential oil can be used as a physical and spiritual protection charm if worn close to your heart. Today Angelica is used to add flavor and aroma to culinary recipes.

 

 

Sources & References:

 *The Earthwise Herbal: A Complete Guide to Old World Medicinal Plants, Matthew Wood, 2008.

*Wikimedia commons Photos of Angelica ( Public Domain)

 

 

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Super Blood Wolf Moon

Tonight, January 20th when a Super Blood Wolf Moon with an eclipse will be viewed by folks in Europe, West Africa, Northern Russia and the Americas North, Central and South.

This extraordinary moon with its’ dark reddish hue will look larger than life contrasting in the dark sky. What is a lunar eclipse you ask? A lunar eclipse happens when our planet Earth travels between our Moon and Sun and aligns with them to block the Sun’s light that normally would reflect off our Moon.

According to the Farmer’s Almanac, “There are three types of lunar eclipses: total, partial, and penumbral, with the most dramatic being a total lunar eclipse—when the Earth’s shadow totally covers the Moon. A lunar eclipse can occur only when there is a full Moon: January’s Wolf Moon turns 100% full on the 21st at 12:16 a.m. EST.”

NASA explains the red blood hue of the super moon. “During a total lunar eclipse, white sunlight hitting the atmosphere on the sides of the Earth gets absorbed and then radiated out (scattered). Blue-colored light is most affected,” NASA officials wrote online. “That is, the atmosphere filters out (scatters away) most of the blue-colored light. What’s left over is the orange- and red-colored light.”

Some call it a Super Blood Blue Moon while the indigenous people of North America call it a Super Blood Wolf Moon. This term predates the Super Blood Blue Moon phrase.

The indigenous people or First Nations people named the Super Blood Wolf Moon to reflect the hungry wolves that would gather and howl with hunger at the January full moon outside the villages. The climate was harsh and cold and many creatures would perish or nearly starve to death during these severe winters.

The Super Blood Wolf Moon will definitely be a Werewolf motivator! 

The Werewolf Myth may have originated from a disease called Hypertrichosis occurs when one’s body grows an unusual amount of hair which may occur at birth or happens later in an adult’s life. 

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Above picture: Petrus Gonsalvus, “The Hairy Man” by Joris Hoefnagelfrom his “Elementa Depicta” in Public Domain.

Belief in werewolves developed in parallel to the belief in witches, in the course of the Late Middle Ages and the Early Modern period. Similar to the witchcraft trials as a whole, the trial of supposed werewolves emerged in what is now Switzerland (especially the Valais and Vaud) in the early 15th century and spread throughout Europe in the 16th, peaking in the 17th and subsiding by the 18th century.

 In folklore, Werewolves are famous wedding crashers and will easily rush into a wedding snatch the bride and scurry into the night. The bride was never seen again. Folklore cites that Werewolves do not change under a full moon they transform through black magic. The full moon morphing was introduced by Hollywood movie scripts. To kill a werewolf it is best to shoot it with a silver bullet.

werewolf by nifty buckles

Illustration of Werewolf by Nifty Bryn Buckles

Enjoy the Super Blood Wolf Moon January 20th.

 

 

Sources & References:

*Farmers’ Almanac, https://www.farmersalmanac.com/january-2019-lunar-eclipse-33826

*NASA https://www.jpl.nasa.gov/edu/events/2019/1/21/total-lunar-eclipse-and-supermoon/

*Google books: squochee kesos The New England historical & genealogical register and antiquarian journal: v. 10

*James, William; Berger, Timothy; Elston, Dirk (2005). Andrews Diseases of the Skin: Clinical Dermatology (10 ed.). Saunders. p. 769. ISBN 0-7216-2921-0

*Rose, C. (2000). Giants, Monsters & Dragons: An Encyclopedia of Folklore, Legend and Myth. New York: Norton. p. 230. ISBN 0-393-32211-4.

 

 

 

Winter Solstice: The Yule Log

In Scandinavian countries each year during the Winter Solstice it was tradition to heave a huge log into a large hearth to commemorate the sun’s return.

Picture of Yule log courtesy of Rocksweeper.

The Yule log was usually an Oak log however, Ash was also used in order to grant wisdom and good fortune.

The women would gather to bless and cleanse the home from negative spirits. The oldest male and family members would seek out the ideal large Yule log for the hearth. They would have to anchor large ropes around it and drag it back to their home. It was considered a bad omen to cut the log from a living tree.

The Yule log was rubbed with ale, mead or whiskey and dressed with greenery.

Ornamental shapes were carved into the log, often in the image of Holda or Cailleach for the Celts, her image represented the cold, darkness and death, once tossed upon the hearth winter was exchanged for heat, light and life.

The Yule log was kept lit throughout the Winter Solstice to prevent evil spirits from entering the home and represent welcoming the Solar year.

Many ghost tales were told in front of the warm fire as well as toasts and wishes made. Over the years folks often tie their prayers and petitions to the Yule log before it is tossed into the fire. Sometimes part of the Yule log is saved for the next winter.

Source & Reference:

*Grimm, Jacob (James Steven Stallybrass Trans.) (1882). Teutonic Mythology: Translated from the Fourth Edition with Notes and Appendix Vol. I. London: George Bell and Sons.

*Picture of Yule log cutting in Public Domain.

The Tiny Finish Tonttu of Yule

WinterFolklore ❄🌲

The Tiny Finish Tonttu of Yule

Nisse (Norway) or Tonttu (Finland) is a tiny elf identified with the winter solstice & Yule season. Nisse have four fingers, has pointed ears with eyes reflecting light in the dark, like those of a cat. Nisse may accompany the Júlbock/Yule goat.

Source & References:

*German and Scandinavian Legendary Creatures: Elf, Troll, Tomte, Jörmungandr, etc.

LLC Books 2010

Opera dei Pupi

Sicilian Puppet Theatre, Opera dei Pupi
dates back to the 15th century. Traditional Sicilian Folk Art uses wooden marionettes on strings and metal wires instead of hand puppets.
These marionettes vary in size from small to large.

They comprise Frankish romantic poems one for example is The Song of Roland.

The donkey carts that are used are painted with detailed scenes for the various tales that are performed by these colourful wooden marionettes.

Presently there are only a few troubadours that still travel and perform.

Source & Reference:

  • Giuseppe Guarraci “Ernesto Puzzo e l’opera dei pupi nel siracusano” AICS 2011
  • Pictures in Public Domain