In my neighborhood, the leaves are finally gaining the brilliance of autumn --- golds, oranges, scarlets, and several maples that made me stop in my tracks to take a photo and admire -- a candy apple red so incredibly gorgeous they brought me to tears.
There is a marvelous quote by Albert Camus: 'Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.' And I couldn't agree more.
We celebrate Halloween today - tricks and treats for the young folks, ghosts and goblins, pumpkins and carvings, and dinner with friends. I'm reprinting an article I wrote years ago on the origins of Halloween -- enjoy!
And remember to be generous -- prosperity may follow!
The Origins of HalloweenThe Origins of Halloween
By: Lin Frye
Hobgoblins, ghosts, black cats, pumpkins, haystacks, scarecrows,
larger-than-life cartoon characters, and more “other worldly” figures parade around the streets, knocking on doors and begging “Trick or Treat!” Each fall the holiday many children, and lately adults, look forward to is Halloween … but where did our traditional observances come from?
Most folklore authorities agree that Halloween as we know it began as a combination of druidic practices and classical Roman religious beliefs. During the second century B.C., the Celtic communities of Northern and Western Europe, especially in Ireland and Scotland, celebrated their year’s end on October 31, the eve of “Samhain (“summer’s end”). This event was marked with agrarian festivals that celebrated the ending of the year (with foods such as nuts and apples). After grains had been gathered the sun was thanked for the harvest. At the same time, the sun was “honored” in hopes that the winter would not be too severe and would return in the spring. “Samhain” was an occasion for feasting since the harvested foods were often abundant.
It was also on this feast night, that townsfolks extinguished the fires in their hearths and met at the center of town. The priests would alight the sacred oak to kindle a new fire in honor of the sun god and to frighten away any lurking evil spirits. Each family head of household would receive an ember from the sacred fire so that he could kindle a new fire in his own hearth to protect the household throughout the year.
The Celts also believed that on October 31, the lord of the dead assembled the souls of those persons who passed away during the year. Since it was also believed that on this day the souls of the dead played tricks on the living, the druids offered sacrifices to appease the souls and protect the survivors.
Our modern Halloween practices reflect some of the influences from the Roman festival honoring “Pomona,” the goddess of fruit and nuts. A harvest festival was held November 1 to thank Ponona for the harvest bounty. Today, many of our Halloween decorations and foods include seasonal varieties of these crops.
It took centuries to incorporate October 31 into the Christian calendar. During the fourth through seventh centuries, the idea of honoring numerous martyrs and saints grew out of the fact that there were fewer days in the calendar than there were saints to worship. Pope Gregory III placed a single day in the church calendar to celebrate all the saints. This day occurred during the
spring of the year. However, during the reign of Pope Gregory IV, he placed All Saints Day and the vigil All Hallows’ Eve on November 1 and October 31 respectively. Historians believe this was done to offset the paganisms of the old “Samhain” rites. Nonetheless, the Christianizing of the Halloween observances took even more time.
Customs of pagan origins continued to flourish in Ireland, Scotland, Wales and parts of England well into the 18th century, and even later in some places. Outside of the Church, folks still held the belief that Halloween was the gathering time for unruly spirits, including witches and those with evil intent. Common practices continued as folks believed the “spirits” were out on Halloween stealing milk, playing pranks, and destroying crops. To allay their
fears of these spirits, people would gather in groups and make strange or loud noises, to keep the evil spirits away. As they wiled away the time during this fearful night, they played games, such as bobbing for apples, and feasted on new crops that included the traditional fruit and nuts.
Halloween was also considered the time of prophecy, and various “discoveries” could be made that night. For instance, young women would divine their marriage prospects by placing nuts in the fireplace coals, naming one nut for her and the other two for admirers. If one of the admirer’s nuts burned quietly besides the woman’s, it meant that the gentleman would remain true. If, however, one of those named nuts split, it meant no lasting happiness with that individual.
Another discovery was made when young people went in pairs into a field of cabbages. The shape of the cabbage and the size of the vegetable they selected indicated the appearance of their future husband or wife.
While most of these earlier beliefs and observances have disappeared, many others have survived with the European settlers in the new world. Through time and changes, many of these former traditions were revamped and revitalized. In pioneer days, some Americans celebrated Halloween with corn-popping parties, taffy pulls and hayrides. With the Irish Potato Famine in the 1840s and the influence of great numbers of Irish immigrants, Halloween mischief of the “fairy folk” or “little people” came to America. Instead of using pumpkins, which were unavailable in Ireland, the Irish used oversized rutabagas, turnips and potatoes to carve into hideous faces and light with candles to be used as lanterns during Halloween. In fact, the name “Jack-o-Lantern” is reputed to have come from an Irish tale of a man named Jack who was famous for being stingy and drinking too much. In several encounters with the Devil, Jack tricked him, making the Devil very angry. When Jack finally grew old and died, he was banned from Heaven because of his past behavior and banned from Hades because of all his pranks. Jack, in desperation, begged the Devil for a live coal to light his way out of the dark. Jack put the coal in a turnip he was eating at the time, and according to myth, was condemned to roam the earth with his lantern until Judgment Day.
By the late 1800s, Halloween had become a national observance in the US. Traditions had been altered enough to recognize the parties, dressing in costumes and trick or treating that we do today. Though not all folklorists agree as to where trick or treating came from, one suggestion is that this custom came to the US when European peasants went from house to house asking for
money to buy items for a Halloween feast and demanding that contributions be given to them. If donors were liberal, good fortune was assured to the giver. However, if the donors were stingy, then threats were made and pranks carried out.
A drive around the area assures us that Halloween observances are alive and well. Decorations of haystacks, scarecrows, black cats, witches and the like spice up many neighborhoods and shops. And on the night of October 31, we’ll hear the ghosts and goblins knocking on our doors threatening “Trick or Treat!”
Remember to be generous … prosperity may follow!
Thursday, October 31, 2013
Sunday, October 27, 2013
Can't help myself! Got to have some autumn color! LOL
From Hal Borland's "Book of Days" (1964) "Autumn in your Hand:"
"A tree in Autumn is a lovely sight. One tree alone can concentrate the beauty of a whole woodland, leaf by leaf and branch by branch, as one flower can give the essence of a whole garden.....Watch even a single branch outside a certain window, and you are watching the color of change. One morniing there is a spot of yellow on a certain leaf....Another day and that glow may be there. It spreads. The spot becomes a splash of gold...edged perhaps with a thin line of scarlet. It creeps down the leaf between the veins, and then across the veins; and the scarlet edging widens into a band and then a border....Thus comes Autumn, leaf by leaf and tree by tree, thus the woods become a hooked rug flung across the hills with all its folds and all its colors....Pick up one leaf of those already cast adrift, and you hold Autumn in your hand."
Happy Autumnal Sunday!
Friday, October 25, 2013
7" x 11" Yupo Paper
We awoke to temps in the 30s this morning, frost making its first appearance and announcing that the splendid fall we've been enjoying will soon come to an end.
I am loathe to let go of my favorite season and so I'll continue to brighten the shortening days with vivid colors on my palette and extend the season a bit longer.
From Hal Borland's "Sundial of the Seasons" (1964) "Frost Walks the Valleys:"
"First frost has walked through the valleys under the half moon. You could hear it whispering through the fallen leaves as it hurried down the hillsides in the evening, feel its crisp breath as it passed you on a country road. And at dawn you could see its path, glistening on the goldenrod stems and powdering the purple asters. Midmorning, and the tender gardens in the lowlands had limp and blackened rows of tomato vines to mark its path.....
First frost is like a newcomer in a strange country, following the beaten paths of the valleys .....
Meanwhile, there will be mornings when the valleys are lakes of mist, with the frost there beneath them. There will be noons when the valley air is almost touched with June. There will be evenings when the long light on the hillsides is full of magic. And there will be nights when the wood smoke wreathes the starlight in the hollows.
But once first frost has passed this way, the pattern is set ..... and after that the frost will walk boldly over the land."
Catch the color while we can! Happy Weekend!
Tuesday, October 22, 2013
The cool weather has found us this week, and we awaken to temps in the 30s and 40s -- BRRR -- a reminder that the marvelous fall weather we've been enjoying will soon come to an end, winter will settle in, and the holidays will begin in earnest. For me, I'm still waiting for the reds to show up on the trees!! LOL
Still, the colors here in Piedmont North Carolina are intensifying, and dropping. Already the crunch of footfalls can be made in the growing leaf litter, and more of the sky is visible through the tree canopy. Sunshine is far less intense, and the morning shadows are long and long. The season is fast moving forward.
Thought I'd play a bit with watercolor and do a quick study of our viburnum ... a mix of gold and scarlet, and luscious, dark berries that are just ripe for a bird feast.
Hope you have a great week!
Thursday, October 17, 2013
The fall weather is fast upon us ... we've had cool temps all week as well as rainy, overcast days, making summer a memory, despite a warming trend later this week. Leaves have quickly turned to yellow and tarnish, and as yet only the sumac and dogwoods have put on any kind of scarlet. Our peak for color, though, doesn't happen for at least another few weeks, so we're all keeping our fingers crossed.
In the meantime, I'm using the intense colors of ink to summon fall .... and loving the brightness and the flow of ink across yupo.
Hope you have a great day!
Monday, October 14, 2013
Our quick trip to the mountains of North Carolina was a lot of fun with two festivals and a leisurely visit to the many craft and art shops of Black Mountain. We saw fabulous quilts everywhere and even took in a demo of "Bed Turning" where new quilts were displayed and work explained as quilts lined a bed covered with them! Fabulous artwork, and the food of festivals - corn, candy apples, sausages, kettle corn and more were the highlights of the weekend. We found an awesome Bistro for our dinners while in Hickory, NC - incredible food and a server that was not only friendly, but one of the best! We came home with new quilts for our home and those luscious North Carolina apples ...!
The leaves hadn't quite changed to the golds and scarlets we were hoping for - but here and there a single maple would catch our eye with so many different colors that it was a joy to behold. The rain held off until our return on Sunday, and we arrived rested and glad to see so much leaf color in our own backyard!
This alcohol painting was done to celebrate the fall season - and I gave it the colors that haven't yet made it to our part of North Carolina.
Friday, October 11, 2013
My experiments with alcohol ink are proving to be addictive (no pun intended!!! LOL) -- and I cannot tell you how much I am enjoying the fluidity, flow and spontaneous nature of this medium on yupo paper. In so many ways, doing these small abstract landscapes reminds me of my 'splash and splatter' technique where one really has to let go of 'control' and let the paint do the directing while we take a backseat and 'fine tune' as we can.
It's been a week of cold, rainy weather and though we've needed the rain, I've sure missed the sunshine. Still, the leaf color changes seem to be happening far faster with the cooler temperatures, and already there is leaf litter everywhere. I hope to catch more tree color on some car rides this weekend.
For those who've asked about alcohol ink process and information, I would highly recommend extensive searches on Youtube and Google as I am so new to the process I have a difficult time finding words to explain what I'm doing. I hope this changes as I become more familiar with results from my experiments, but in the meantime, there seems to be a lot of information already on the web that will do a far better job of explanation than I can right now.
Have a great weekend!
Tuesday, October 08, 2013
Alcohol inks have been around a long time -- but they came to my attention during a gallery tour several weeks ago. I fell in love with their vibrancy and their spontaneous workings.
I purchased a number of these for my birthday and have been attempting a number of experiments and having a blast! This small work is the result of those 'playful' evenings. I really love the blend of semi-realism and abstraction ... and quite truthfully, the 'surprises' that these inks produce on non-porous subjects.
I'll continue my experimentation as I really can't say I've mastered 'any' of their workings --- but oh my is it fun!!!
Friday, October 04, 2013
12" x 16"
It's that time of year again when fields turn golden and the light brings a glow to the woodlands. My favorite barn now sits among grasses that are thigh-high and wave with each passing breeze. I love to come upon this place in the morning when the sun seems to highlight the aging wood and yellowing fields.
It's been an incredibly busy week for me with obligations, paintings to put up, take down, classes, car maintenance, house chores, celebratory lunches, supply gathering for new classes I'll teach and more. There's been little time for resting and it seems September has blown by with the wind. Hopefully October will be a bit slower ...! LOL
Weather has been warm and beautiful, with summer temps returning in the afternoons. I picked the final fig from my trees and my first persimmon. The fall apples have started to arrive, and I am in heaven. My favorites - Pinova (very hard for me to find in my part of North Carolina), Honey Crisp and Pink Cripps -- YUMM!!!! I see a lot of apple dishes on my menu!
Hope you have a great weekend!