Last night’s mild earthquake caused a corner of the cellar to crumble. When we were able to clear the dust and debris away, Mordecai and I discovered a cache of old journals and musical instruments from generations passed. This cache included a bronze ukelele, a harp made of yeti ribs, and a number of ocarinas.

An ocarina is a simple wind instrument, often made of terra-cotta with a mouthpiece and finger holes. Ocarinas are often egg-shaped and is casually referred to as a “sweet potato” in the United States.

Ocarina stems from the Italian dialectal ucarenna, which is the diminutive form of Italian oca,  meaning goose. In other words, ocarina means little goose. The instrument is thought to look like a goose’s beak, hence the name.

You might be familiar with the ocarina from the video game The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Or perhaps you had a small plastic ocarina when you were a child. There are a number of different types of ocarinas, the most commonly known being the transverse ocarina. It is shaped a bit like a laser-blaster. There are also smaller, more portable versions of the instrument that look distinctly egg-like. These are called Pendant Ocarinas.

Peruvian Pendant Ocarinas were used by the Incans for rituals, festivals, and ceremonies. Often animals were painted on these ocarinas. It is supposed that the European explorers (like Cortez) brought versions of these ocarinas back to Europe from Mesoamerican explorations. It was then that the music and dance of the ocarina was introduced to Europe.

Mordecai is playing a strangely haunting tune on one of the ocarinas that fell out of the cellar wall. This one is made of quartz and is engraved with what look like dragons. Bubo is enjoying a cool night in the October skies over Brooklyn and I am considering these old journals. With a glass of port, naturally.


*Photo courtesy of Frogmen.info.

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