Archive of ‘sacred days’ category

A lonely flute is the new 40

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Next year I am going to look back and be utterly mortified that I chose this ridiculous photo to commemorate my turning 40, but you know what?  Get a grip, next-year-me. I liked my face on this particular day and was feeling goofy and fun, and what’s wrong with that, anyhow? I mean, you’d almost think that we live in a world where we are trained to hate the way we look and should feel ashamed to feel decent about ourselves every once in a blue moon, but, naaaahhh… that couldn’t possibly be true, could it?

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Oh–shit! There I am again!  “What’s with this broad?” you may be wondering.  “Can’t she keep her goddamned face to herself? HA and NO. Not today, face-haters. Not today.
And anyway, isn’t it great, this world we live in? Where we can look at our friend’s wonderful faces every day, even when we’re a million miles apart? I love all of your gorgeous, goofy mugs. Thanks for tolerating mine.

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In a fit of extravagance, I had ordered some birthday gifts for myself over a month and a half ago and I figured that would give them plenty of time to arrive, but one piece is custom & hand-made and the others were ordered during a highly anticipated sale, so I suppose I should have known better. Still, it was kind of a bummer, as I had hoped I would have them in time for a birthday weekend extravaganza where everyone could ooh and ahh over them and I could bask in the warm glow of strangers thinking I have exceptional taste. Ah, well. Such problems we should all have.

Instead, I received a very unexpected, thoroughly marvelous parcel from a dear friend, full of extraordinary magics.  First: a chocolate birthday Babka! Isn’t it gorgeous? I could have gazed rapturously upon its gently-spiced, sweetly-yeasted, chocolatey visage all day long, but I had to eat it eventually, you know.  I hope you’ll not think less of me for that.

And a piece of embroidery from YourGothicGranny! I nearly cried with laughter when I saw the phrase embroidered in those sweet, delicate stitches, “a lonely flute in the fog of yourself”.  This ridiculous translation of a French perfume’s description had us in stitches a few weeks ago, if you’ll pardon the pun, and I love that I will forever have a reminder of its absurdity! Even if the fragrance itself turned out to be completely unmemorable.

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And what’s this!  Some original art from my insanely talented parter-in-crime, Becky Munich (and rumor has it that you will see this piece–and others–in a highly anticipated, forthcoming Gothic zine!) And a tee-shirt that she designed for Sabbath Assembly, an unearthly, unsettling purveyor of dark, freaky sounds.

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Speaking of music, lovely Sasha gifted me a copy of her band’s new release, Emerald Posies! “With the mercurial force of an ancient spell, Suspirea burst into existence fully formed. Singer/guitarist Sasha Soukup & Cellist Bluebird Gaia rallied together & immediately started creating their own musical witches brew. The ingredients are simple: girl-group harmonies, gothic menace, traditional folk songs & a dash of progressive weirdness.”  Doesn’t that sound amazing?  I am so excited to give it a listen!

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And lastly: CATS. From my darling BGF. Because of course!

(…also: not pictured is the beautiful mortar and pestle set from my beloved for the grinding of spices and the making of garlic paste.  And a really cooler muddler/shaker for the creation of fancy cocktails!)

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On Friday night we drove into Orlando for a screening of Gothic at Carmine Boutique.  Ken Russell’s frenzied, hallucinatory depiction of that infamous night at the Villa Diodati is a film dear to my heart. That baby-faced Julian Sands!  Claire Claremont’s frizzy halo of hair! The outrageously diabolical Lord Byron!   I love all of it and it was such a treat to see it again, especially in what has become one of my favorite strange & unsual places to visit in central Florida!

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On Saturday night we attended the Florence + The Machine performance at the Amway Arena. Normally I avoid venues like this. Too many people, too crowded, parking is too much of a production, etc., etc. I don’t like asking anyone to go to that sort of trouble for me.  But I did this time around and I am very glad that I did. For such an enormous arena, it was a surprisingly intimate show…and what a whirling dervish she was! What a magical, transcendent voice.

I wept when she took the stage and opened with What The Water Gave Me. I remembered where I was when I heard it for the first time–6 years ago, still in NJ, trapped in a town that was flooded and under water for a week– and how miserable I was, but also how the song moved me, shook me, changed me. And this weekend I heard it performed live by Florence herself, in the company of those I love best in this world. And I rejoiced. I was resplendently happy, so much so, that I could not contain my happiness. It flowed down my cheeks and dripped off my chin and I was grateful for it.  For all of it, and everything.
For moving waters and changes and love. So much love.

Thanks everyone, for loving me so damn much.  I know it sounds cheesy, but I am gonna put it out there, anyhow–40 is going to be a fantastic year.

How to wear: the Spring Equinox

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Stranger Than Paradise/ W Magazine 2013 Tilda Swinton shot by Tim Walker

I’ll admit, I never had much of an appreciation for spring until I moved up North to New Jersey.  Until that time, I had spent the last twenty years in the semi-tropics and spring was, at best, laughable. There were no gusty lions or meek lambs and April showers most certainly did not lead to May flowers. It was only the paralyzing heat on the asphalt as soon as February passed and the same line of palm trees as far as the eye could see, stretching to the horizon and beyond. Palm trees and heat death forever. The end.

In New Jersey, however, there was actual winter. With snow and ice and cold and itchy sweaters and people always stealing your parking spot that you spend at least an hour digging for your own damn self, and angst, oh the angst.  I grew to dread the oncoming autumn, because I knew it heralded 3-4+ months of pure, unadulterated, shivering misery.

But spring, oh my–spring!  Spring became a wonderful time of surprising magics. Such little things, I suppose…but things, having grown up in the south, that I didn’t even know to look for or expect. Every afternoon when I arrived home from work there would be something new blooming in the yard, budding and blossoming in the trees.  Bunny rabbits, all over the place on my morning walks!  The coolest, most lovely breeze swishing and swirling through the house on an early April morning (the same morning, where, down south, the AC would probably already be running full blast).

And so, my infatuation with spring began.  And what to wear during this time of birth and renewal and the disappearance of winter’s ghostly remains?  Well, I take my cue from celebrated haiku master Matsuo Basho:

From all these trees –
in salads, soups, everywhere –
cherry blossoms fall

See below for several ensembles showcasing riotous blooms and delicate blossoms, and yes–even color, bright explosions of it!  After all, today spring is here and I will be the gladdest thing under the sun…for approximately two days. Now that I am back in the  southern swampland, summer will no doubt arrive before the week is through, and that’s when we wear all black and lock ourselves into a climate controlled mourning for the next nine months.

As always, click the image for item details.

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How to wear the Winter Solstice

Dryades by Agnieszka Osipa

Dryades by Agnieszka Osipa

Several years ago, when I was in my early-to-mid 20s,  my youngest sister and I spent a crisp winter solstice evening in downtown Deland Florida with a good friend of ours.  It was an enchanting night of hopeful year-end novice spellwork, rooftop cocktails and stargazing, and the loveliest feeling of warmth and camaraderie and peace.  I’ve yet to spend a winter solstice in such splendid company since.

To be truthful, I’ve not dedicated much time or preparation at all since then to sabbats or esbats or any manner of pagan pursuits. Perhaps my beliefs have changed; ceremony and all the trappings of ritual aren’t nearly so meaningful if there is a loss or change in beliefs  -and if you’re just going through the motions, what’s the point at all?

I suppose though, whatever your beliefs, it’s difficult to deny the existence of the passage of the seasons and the seasonal interplay between light and darkness.  These natural phenomena are occurring whether or not you celebrate anything today, whether or not you believe in Sun Gods or Yule Kings or the birth of some divine savior. Even if you’re not lighting candles or making wreaths or raising lanterns or planning the slightest bit of introspection or spiritual reflection, well…regardless, of your beliefs and associated rites and rituals, it is still the shortest day of the year in the northern hemisphere. You still have to crawl out of bed, get dressed, and go about your day.

My long winded and very roundabout point is this: if you’re not doing anything else today,  on the winter solstice (or maybe it is tomorrow? whatever), you should at least get dressed.  Right?  And if you’re bothering to get dressed, why not do it in style? See below for some  solstice outfit inspiration, for either ignoring or celebrating the gods and the earth, the light and the dark. Either way, you’ll look marvelous

As always, click on for details on each ensemble.

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Death Cafe Orlando, take two

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On a grey, rainy afternoon in late February, eleven strangers sought each other out to discuss the topic of death and all things related at Orlando’s second Death Cafe. Despite the weather, our participant’s spirits were not dampened over the course of our two hour event – if anything, a merrier group was never seen in the face of what can often be a difficult, challenging conversation.

Gathered in a loose circle — on sofas, in chairs, on the floor, attendees took part in a group discussion on matters of life and death that ranged from one’s first awareness of death, to last wishes and everything in between: the wishes for our remains, the legacies that we leave behind and our digital footprint that remains long after our physical presence has passed. And of course, delectable cakes and cookies and treats  -brought in and shared by one and all – were offered to nourish and fortify the body beforehand (and, of course, lots of positive energy in the room to nourish the spirit!) A reporter and photographer from the Orlando Sentinel held a quiet, unobtrusive presence, as well, and conducted several brief interviews after the event wrapped up.

Attendees described the afternoon as “enlightening”, and “validating” and remarked on the warm, pleasant atmosphere. Suggestions and friendly, thoughtful critiques were offered as well, and will certainly be taken into account for our next event!

Thank you so much for attending Orlando’s second Death Cafe – it was an honor to have spent the afternoon with all of you who attended and I look forward to doing it again, and perhaps seeing some of you there the next time!

For those of you wondering about my shirt, you can purchase it through the Death Salon site.  Additionally, here are the recipes for the Irish Wake Cake and the Funeral Biscuits.

 

 

Caftan Party Paradise

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Simone d'Aillencourt in Emilio Pucci, Vogue 1967

Simone d’Aillencourt in Emilio Pucci, Vogue 1967

How am I just now, nearly a year later, reading about Christina Hendrick’s Palm Springs Caftans and Casseroles party idea? Unbelievable.  This is an idea that is tailor-made for me.  Psychedelic, flowing frocks? Check.  One dish meals, preferably topped with a heart stopping amount of melty cheese? Check. A room full of my favorite people, swimming in their caftans, gorging themselves on potluck comestibles from tables groaning under the collective weight of so many pyrex casserole dishes? YES PLEASE.  It’s like a demented orgy except with entirely different perversions. What? You know us casserole lovers can get freaky.

This magnificent garment has come a long way from 600 BC Persia where it was traditionally worn in the battlefield under chainmail.  It was later introduced to North Africa where “different groups interpreted them according to their religious and cultural traditions, and European imperialism led to cultural contact with the East, allowing for caftans to infiltrate the Western wardrobe.” Fast forward to the 1960s, when wealthy jet-setters and superstars took off for places like Morocco and India and brought back Eastern fashion traditions. Designers such as Halston and Yves Saint Laurent adopted the style into a symbol of bohemian elite that trickled down to mainstream fashion in the 1970s.

Now, as then, this drapey dress continues to appeal to the masses – whether you’re a warlord, a celebrity starlet, or a gal who just wants to let it all hang out and not be constrained by buttons and waistbands after a glorious feast.
…And they can be found everywhere! An etsy search alone brings up nearly 11K hits, some of them starting at as little as $10, so you certainly do not have to break the bank for your fantastical bohemian comfort wear. (Although obviously they run much more expensive, as evidenced by this gorgeous number by Oscar De La Renta over at Net-A-Porter for $2,990.)

I have compiled below some inspiration in the form of glamorous ladies in flowing frocks and the casseroles and covered dishes which to accompany them. In the meantime to ready yourself for this unparalleled vision of paradise involving comfort food and comfortable clothes, I suggest you read Caftan Lyfe and How to Get Your Caftan Body Ready For Summer.

1. Select a caftan of your chosen gauge and length. Stroke its gauzy fabric and whisper into its folds.

2. Let your flesh settle into the crevices of your comfortable, comfortable caftan.

3. Crumbs? Let them fall where they may, swaddled in your caftan.

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Elizabeth Taylor

Tilda Swinton in Purple Fashion Magazine, Vol.3, nr.5, Summer 2006

 

Anjelica Huston (Photo by Terry O’Neill/Getty Images)

 

Brigitte Bardot

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As you sprawl luxuriously, here are some ideas for a decadent spread:

Best ever green bean casserole // Mediterranean quinoa casserole // Spinach and cheese strata // Cheesy broccoli rice casserole // Overnight blueberry french toast casserole // Six cheese veggie lasagna // Tater tot enchilada casserole // Biscuits and gravy casserole // Macaroni and three cheeses

BONUS 

Wondering how to style your marvelous new caftan?  I have a few ideas for you…
Details on Look 1 can be found here, and Look 2 can be found here.

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The Christmas Service of the Dead

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The Christmas Service of the Dead

People say that long ago the dead held a service on the night before Christmas.  Once a woman arrived too early for Christmas service.  When she entered the church she found it lit up and full of dead people, singing:

Here we sing, our bones all bleached,
Here we sing with beautiful voice,
When shall the day of judgment come,
What yet have you to say?

The story continues on as the woman recognizes her dead sister among the congregation. Warned by her sister that she must flee, for the dead will take her life, the woman escapes, dropping her shawl behind her to confuse her cadaverous pursuers.  When the church warden comes in the next morning and puts the lights on, he spies the shawl in the empty chapel, torn almost beyond recognition.

This tale is widely spread in Europe and is extremely old, having been set in Autun, Burgandy, by Gregory of Tours in his De Gloria Confessorum.  See below for an illustrated version of the best-known Scandinavian variant of this migratory legend, “The Midnight Mass of the Dead” from Asbørnsen’s “En gammelgags juleaften” (“An Old Fashioned Christmas Eve”).  These wonderfully evocative images, full of dim shades, grim shadows and midwinter’s eerie light, were created by artist Chris Van Allsburg (JumangiThe Polar Express) and can be found in Ghosts” volume from theTime Life Enchanted World series.  These scans are from my personal collection; higher-resolution, more detailed versions can be found here.

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Wishing you peace and light in this dark, dying time of the year, and may you not be without your shawl or other talisman this winter holiday when the dead are afoot and hungry for your company.

(originally posted at After Dark In The Playing Fields)