Monthly Archives: March 2012

St. Patrick’s Day

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, oddlings. I woke early this morning to find Bubo dying rodent bones green. (She takes most holidays as an excuse to show off her predatory skills.) Mordecai and I will be playing our bagpipes on the Widow’s Walk; we have some duets planned and might even do a bit of “dueling bagpipes” should the whiskey take hold. We don’t drink green beer in this house – with all the experiments we have going on, drinking a glass of something green could be lethal.

We’re also not wearing anything green nor are we pinching each other for NOT wearing green. This tradition began in the 1700s; common thought was that wearing green would make the wearer invisible to leprechauns. If one was visible to leprechauns, leprechauns would pinch – and in some cases steal – that person! Pinching someone not decked out in green became a way to warn each other of leprechauns and their wily ways.

Speaking of leprechauns – watch out for those fellows. While the Americanized version is a happy-go-lucky little sprite (you may thank Disney and the movie Darby O’Gill and The Little People for that), Irish folklore has it that leprechauns are actually not that friendly. They’re solitary creatures, spending their days cobbling and being frugal. They’re anti-social and have a penchant for rather nasty tricks. They apparently carry one magic coin that always returns to their purse once it’s spent and one dummy coin that turns into a rock when the leprechaun has given it away. Yes, they’ve got pots of gold, and yes, they do have a sparkle in their eyes. But are they worth the trouble? Perhaps finding a shamrock is better for one’s health.

The shamrock, of course, is NOT a four-leaf clover, but is a three-leaf clover. St. Patrick apparently used the three-leaf shamrock to illustrate the Christian teaching of the Holy Trinity. St. Patrick was lucky when it came to the Shamrock. It was easily adopted by the ancient Irish perhaps because it was already considered sacred in the country’s pre-Christian days, representing rebirth and eternal life. Three was also considered a sacred number in the pagan religion and there were a number of Triple Goddesses in ancient Ireland like Brigid, Ériu, and the Morrigan.

Slainté, my dears.

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Erter Vinter

Oh, my dears. It’s been a long week. And it is Friday night. The sky is dark, the moon is traveling past the stars, and much of the world is readying for bed. Curl up and listen to the tales I weave, until your eyes grow heavy and you slip into slumber, ready for the Dream Maker.

In Alfheimr, home of the Light-Elves and one of the Nine Worlds of Old Norse mythology, the erter vinter (winter peas) dwell. These tiny elves sing and fly through the heavens on the dreams of dead animals. They smell like salt and when they sing make whistling and tinkling sounds like bells and chimes in the wind. They are happy beings and welcome spirits to heaven with a warmth that seems unfathomable for a Norwegian winter.

Here on earth, we live with the Dark-Elves, creatures dark as pitch and thick with evil. It is easy to become mired in their darkness, to believe the terrible things they whisper, and this is exactly what they want.

As is written in the eddic poem Gylfaginning:

That which is called Álfheim is one, where dwell the peoples called Light elves [Ljósálfar]; but the Dark-elves [dökkálfar] dwell down in the earth, and they are unlike in appearance, but by far more unlike in nature. The Light-elves are fairer to look upon than the sun, but the Dark-elves are blacker than pitch.

Yes, the erter vinter are tiny. And yes, they are silly and happy creatures that could easily somersault across the palm of your hand. But they battle the dökkálfar each and every day. They ride on clouds of otter dreams, singing songs to remind us of the simple strength of the snowflake and to remind us that our world is beautiful and that we are each loved. The dökkálfar are fierce and impressive, but the erter vinter are fiercer.

And they’re cute, too.

The next time you succumb to the insidious whispers of the dökkálfar, take a moment to listen for the chimes and bells that are the songs of the erter vinter. Take a deep breath of the salt in the air that means the erter vinter are near. Let their soft songs seep into your subconscious. It can be warm even in the coldest winter.

Sleep tight, my pets. Dream deep.

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eft

Happy Pi Day, my dears! As we do every Pi Day, Mordecai and I started the day with Pimm’s Cups and raspberry tarts (or mini-pies, if you will).

Whilst soaking in the sunshine and the warm weather snap in the garden, we noticed a corner of my soon-to-be green bean plot undulating. If was not a patch of magic earth, sadly, but instead a group of dancing efts.

An eft is a newt. Specifically, a newt in its terrestrial phase. Eft can refer to any immature newt, the terrestrial form of a primarily aquatic newt, or to the primarily North American reddish-orange Notophthalmus viridescens as well as the Southeastern North American Diemictylus viridescens (the red eft).

Eft comes to us from the Middle English evete, ewte, which in turn is from the Old English efete.

Of course, if you’d like to be truly archaic, eft can be used as an adverb meaning again or afterwards.

Eft has also become an acronym in modern times, meaning either Electronic Financial Transfer or Emotional Freedom Techniques. But if someone yells to you “Look! A red eft!” they are not referring to money or a psychological acupuncture technique.

They are referring to a newt.

Mordecai and I offered our brace of efts bits of raspberry tart and filled some leaves with Pimm’s Cups. They soon began doing what I can only assume is a Pi Day Dance. Which is about 3.14159265 times more undulating than a normal newt dance.

I’m sure Bubo’s appearance had nothing to do with the fervor.

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Maruja the Alebrije

Oh, my dears. It’s been a long week. And it is Friday night. The sky is dark, the moon is traveling past the stars, and much of the world is readying for bed. Curl up and listen to the tales I weave, until your eyes grow heavy and you slip into slumber, ready for the Dream Maker.

Some times, when we are at our darkest, our weakest, our most delicate, we are able to enter worlds previously closed to us. With our bodies and consciousness set to fighting the demons assailing us – whether physical or mental – our subconscious is free to explore beyond what we know on Earth. So often we explain away our dreams in the daylight. But in the depths of a fever dream, explanation seems impossible. And unnecessary.

Maruja is an Alebrije, a Mexican folkloric fantasy creature. Alebrijes originated in the fever dreams of artist Pedro Linares. While sweating through an intense and deadly fever, he dreamed of brightly colored creatures. The creatures all whispered one word to him – alebrije. They chanted this word to him and when he recovered, Linares began sculpting them out of wood and paper mache and named them, naturally, alebrijes. At first, people scoffed at these cryptids – contradictions and amalgamations of known animals, odd and arresting.

But our artist continued sculpting. He believed in his fever dream, knowing that the world he had visited was real and full of a truth not found in the here.

Alebrijes have since gained a reputation for scaring away evil spirits and for protecting the home. They exist now in our here, enchanting and inspiring and protecting. Mysticism need not be dark and smokey, my dears. It is in everything fantastical and bright as well as in everything mysterious and dark.

Believe in what you see, especially when it is in your dreams. You can dream. Don’t forget it.

Sleep tight, my pets. Dream deep.

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