Thursday, December 7, 2017

Winter Deities

Each season comes with its own deities. These supernatural beings bring both blessings and curses. Like us, they can also fall to temptation and vices. They can also be pure enough to lead the way for human beings who heed their example and advice.

The Queen of Winter in Scotland is Beira. The gifts of this mother of all gods and goddesses include the creation of numerous mountains and large hills, which are said to have been formed when she was striding across the land and accidentally dropped rocks from her wicker basket. She also built the mountains to serve as her stepping stones and reportedly shapes hills and valleys with a hammer.

According to legend, she can herd deer, fight spring and freeze the ground. Beira was a one-eyed giantess with white hair, dark blue skin, and rust-colored teeth. She turned her negligent maid Nessa into the river Loch Ness.

Her reign occurs during the winter months November 1 to May 1.

Other Deities of Winter 

The North Wind which does not disturb evergreen trees in winter because they shelter wounded birds.

The Norse Goddess Skadi who brought skis and snowshoes to her people.

The Aztec god of frost Itzlfaeoliuhqui came into being when the dawn god was struck by one of his own arrows.

Credit for the first winter solstice goes to Louhi, Mistress of the North who battled Finnish heroes and then stole the sun and moon from the sky.

Bulgarian winter spirit Koleda gave people the knowledge of the universe and the celestial bodies. He gave them a book about the stars.

There are many more winter spirits, such as Jack Frost and the Snow Queen.

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About Fairies


Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Unexplained Death Exhibit

When does unexplained death become a museum topic? 

Apparently when displays and exhibits about the subject are so artistically produced that they actually re-create in miniature mock scenes that could offer forensic clues about what happened.

Murder Is Her Hobby: Frances Glessner Lee and The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death is designed to explore the surprising intersection between craft and forensic science, according to Smithsonian spokespeople. Currently on exhibit through January 28 in the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian Museum in New York, it also reveals the journey of a female investigator who made her way through the male-dominated field of police investigation in order to establish herself as one of the field’s leading experts.

“Lee (1878-1962) crafted her extraordinary “Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death”—exquisitely detailed miniature crime scenes—to train homicide investigators to “convict the guilty, clear the innocent, and find the truth in a nutshell.” These dollhouse-sized dioramas of true crimes, created in the first half of the 20th century and still used in forensic training today, helped to revolutionize the emerging field of homicide investigation,” wrote the museum staff.

The first female police captain in the country, she has been recognized as the “mother of forensic science” and helped to set up the first-of-its kind Department of Legal Medicine at Harvard University when the field of forensics was in its infancy.  A gifted artist as well as a criminologist, she used the craft of miniature-making that she had learned as a young girl to create the Nutshells that were the “virtual reality” of their day (starting in the 1940s).

Every element of the dioramas—from the angle of miniscule bullet holes, the placement of latches on widows, the patterns of blood splatters, and the discoloration of painstakingly painted miniature corpses—challenges trainees’ powers of observation and deduction. The Nutshells are so effective that they are still used in training seminars today at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Baltimore.

This exhibit represents composites of 19 real and extremely challenging cases featuring homicides, suicides, and accidental deaths.  And she did so, according to the exhibit’s curator, with an eye towards recognizing victims such as women, the poor, and people living on the fringes of society, whose cases might be overlooked or tainted with prejudice on the part of the investigator. She wanted trainees to recognize and overcome any unconscious biases and to treat each case with rigor, regardless of the victim.

For more details, click here

Monday, November 13, 2017

Toy Hall of Fame

 Toys Beloved By Generations

In a culture that places a high value on the 'work ethic', it's refreshing to know there is a museum that chronicles and honors play. The National Toy Hall of Fame includes folk toys and education and has recently announced its 2017 inductees. They are:
1) paper airplane, 2) Wiffle ball, and 3) Clue.

The hall, which is located inside Rochester, New York's interactive The Strong museum, was designed to showcase new as well as classic beloved toys. Nominations can be made by anyone an final selection advice comes from historians, educators, and others who support or engage in creative  toy-related careers and activities.

More than 65 toys have been placed in the hall of fame, including crayons and dominoes. All of them foster creativity and discovery. Here’s a brief look at a few of the most recent additions:

Paper Airline

No one is really sure about the origins of this toy which is fundamentally made of paper. Some credit the ancient Chinese with inventing papyrus paper that could be folded and flown. Others note that Leonardo DaVinci considered the dynamics of parchment airplanes. Researchers and experts say that the principles that make an airplane fly are the same that govern paper versions. Even so, paper airplanes can be made of manly shapes, colors and weights. Consider Pop artist Peter Max’s 1970 book of psychedelic paper airplane templates.


This murder mystery game has been around since 1949. While there were other murder-solving games prior to this one, Clue has been noted by hall of fame advisers that none "Combined its simplicity of play with the enjoyment of solving the 'whodunit', not to mention the 'where' and 'what' of the game's pretend murder. The board game's success is linked to pop cultural interests of the time. Murder mystery novels and suspense films were a big hit in the 1950's. It is interesting to note that it remains one of the more popular board games.

To learn more about nominating a toy, click here

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Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Sugar Skulls

 Why Sugar Skulls?

Calaveras (skulls) made of sugar are among the more colorful folk art staples of El Dia de Los Muertos which occurs November 1 (or Los Dios de los Muertos for those who recognize both November 1 and 2 as days of remembrance). 

Calaveras History

The tradition dates back to the indigenous Aztecans and Mayans of several thousand years ago who celebrated the death of ancestors with rituals that included displaying skulls during ceremonies to symbolize death and rebirth.

Today’s Calaveras are made of molded sugar and are often placed on community and home altars alongside marigolds, candles, photographs, and a sampling of the deceased favorite foods. Ornately decorated with festive papers and foils, glitter, and brightly colored icings, they also carry a special message for the departed or are inscribed with that person’s name.

Years ago, a sugar artist made one for me to honor the loss of my younger sister, Fortunee. During the year the skull is preserved in the freezer until Dia de los Muertos. I then place it alongside the skeleton figures I have collected over the years. These include the bride and groom of death, a skeleton riding a horse and a few hand painted Catrinas. She is the Lady of Death who is the modern-day version of the original celebration’s goddess Michtecacihuatl.

According to Azetcan mythology she is the Queen of Mictlan, the underworld. She ruled over the afterlife alongside her husband Mictlantechutli. A powerful diety, she watched over the bones of the dead and presided over festivals that honored those who had died.

Calaveras generally are not gruesome or scary. They are most often pleasing to the eye which is fitting as they are intended to welcome the traveling spirits of the dead.

Make Your Own

As a folk art, sugar skulls can be a fun family project. To find out more, here is one easy to follow recipe.

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Wednesday, October 4, 2017

October Shape Shifters

 Werewolfs & More

Around the world it is believed that fall may be the best season for human beings to shape shift into beast or half-beast forms. This process is known as therianthropy and the most common reference people have for this is the werewolf.

This idea has long been present in mythology. Consider the dog-headed Ra figures of Ancient Egypt or the Neolithic cave drawings of France. Other examples include Central Asian stories about human-canine shapeshifters who can turn others into animals and European werecats.

Other Examples

Skin-walkers. Native American legends reference skin-walkers who are able to turn into any animal they desire. To do so they must first wear the pelt of a specific animals. 

Turkish Wolf. The wolf of Turkish mythology is revered. Turkish legends say people descended from these animals. It is believed that in a raid upon a small village, one baby was left behind. A she-wolf nursed the child and later gave birth to Turkish half-wolf, half-human cubs.

Congo Leopard. Folk belief of the Congo’s Banana area states that the use of magic potions can turn them into leopards. If they harm others, they will not be able to return to human form. 

Malay Tiger. Tradition among the Malays states that priesthood can only be passed on if the soul of the dead priest takes on the form of a tiger that can then pass into the body of his son. 

Oceania’s Tamaniu. In Melanesia the tamaniu is an animal counterpart to a person. It may appear in the form of an eel, a shark, a lizard, or some other creature. It shares the same soul and can understand human language. In some cases, any death or injury to one may affect the other.

There are many more myths, legends and tales about these supernatural creatures who seem to appear with greater frequency during the darkest times of the year. So take care and remember to be kind to any animals that cross your path. You never know, one of them may be an October Shape Shifter.

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