I have a couple of updates that I want to be sure to post before the weekend.
The first, is that I’m offering Setting of Lights on a weekly basis now and will be doing that throughout the year. See more on that here – this is a reminder because the candle shrine opens this Sunday and the weekly deadline for requests is Saturday.
I haven’t fully set things up yet, but I’ll give you a sneak peek at part of my space. Last year a friend gave me this giant candleholder (the thing is huge!) that he’d gotten at an antique sale.
It’s recycled from a church, I think. I absolutely love it and we originally planned to put it outside by one of our outdoor shrines but there was disagreement about where it should eventually go, so it’s been sitting on my porch for a year. Finally, I realized it was perfect for the candle shrine. I need to give it a good once over with rust remover and a good scrub brush but then it is going to be deployed in the shrine room. I have a secondary small table that will go right in front of it to hold more candles and if I can find it, I may have another cast iron candle holder for that table too (I need to dig through my storage room). I plan on having everything up by Friday evening (and thank you to those of you who have already ordered candles). So, if you are interested, please reach out to me at Krasskova at gmail.com.
Secondly, I have reopened my etsy shop. I have a ton of new cards, all of which are currently available:
- Sheela na Gig (it’s complicated, I know, but this one was by repeated request)
- Hrethe (Hreðe)
They’re all up and available in my etsy shop, which y’all can find at the link above.
Finally, I’m working on a new project. It’s a year long stitch journal – I got the idea from this blog (and the author of this blog also offers a PDF and explanation of the project for sale). I plan to do this as an offering for the House of Mundilfari (though I’m doing each month individually and then will sew them together and onto a nice backing after I’m all finished, instead of how the author suggests). After all, They are the Gods Who govern time and our cycles and seasons. It seems fitting and at the same time, the stitch work honors my female ancestors, my Disir. When I’m all done, I’ll be able to create a stitch roll, and I’ll attach a button with which to tie it and voila. I’ll put it on the shrine next New Year’s Day as an offering. Here’s what I have done so far (only five days of course since we’re only five days in) (1). I’ve already chosen the back cloth for February’s piece.
What do all of you have going on devotionally for this month? What goals have you set for this upcoming year?
- Space one is the Bayeux stitch, a couching stitch over satin stitch used in the Bayeux tapestry. Space two is just some chain stitch and colonial knots. Space three has tulips and a daisy, and I got to practice lazy daisy stitch, which I suck at lol. Space three is more lazy daisy, and then space five is seed stitch and leaf stitch. In various places there’s also back stitch, blanket stitch, and stem stitch.
So my husband insisted I take a break and not come to the hospital for a couple of days. It’s terribly polluted space, and requires extensive shielding and purification before, during, and after. He noticed how exhausted I was and insisted I take care of myself (because me, being me, I would have pushed and gone until I dropped). well, I took Saturday off and went to a sewing class — because for an Odin’s woman, “relaxation” means “learning something new.”
Fallkill Creative Works was offering a class in sewing little cat ornaments. They were the cutest things I”d ever seen and while I wasn’t sure I could actually do it, I and two friends signed up. It was so much fun! I learned new things, made a cute little doll (mine is second from the right — I was the only one to choose the smaller size) and had a fantastic day. The class is held in an 18th century house that was built for the minister of the Dutch Reform Church in 1767. Right across the street was an outdoor seasonal food…shack I guess you’d say. it was like a food truck but in a little building. It was Oaxacan food and omg so good. The young man who owned it had set up an ofrenda for dia de los muertos and that was still up, so I was able to leave offerings for the dead too. I also tried my first Horchata and oh. my. Gods is it good. I think it’s become my new favorite thing. Then I taught my friend to talk to crows. She is fascinated by stories like this one.
It was a good day, a needed day and as my husband pointed out, if we don’t take care of ourselves in all the small ways that nourish our souls, our creativity, our hearts, then we will not be able to do the work our Gods require of us and if we cannot do that, then why are we here?
I’d love to hear what y’all do when you need to step back, reset, and take a bit of a breather from all the stressors of living and loving. Meantime, here’s the picture of our cat dolls. 🙂
Mine is the second from the right. The teacher was awesome and I learned so much about basic doll-making. In addition to teaching classes, she has her own shop, named Hunca Munca, after a Beatrix. Potter character. The shop is in Beacon. Highly recommended all around.
I remember how astonishingly brilliant she was at her height as a dancer. She just blew us away (I was a student still when I first saw her).
Also, She’s right: if you don’t *need* do to it, if it’s not you everything, then don’t do it.
In October, I am one of twenty artists who will be showing work at the Live4Art Gallery in Pawling, NY. Because there are twenty of us — it’s a huge show, includes pottery, and is going to be fabulous!– each artist has three slots. Here are the three paintings I’m putting in:
Still life with Apples
Temptation (or Malus I would rather be)
I need to take better photos in much better light. the overhead, inset lights in my living room really skew the brightness and hue of the paintings but you get the idea here. I’ll post more about the show once we’re closer to October.
For those in the NY/CT area who are up for a day trip, I highly, highly recommend this exhibit at the Carrie Haddad Gallery. They’re showing a selection of the work of Kahn and Selesnick and omg, I’ve seen one of their exhibits before: it’s just magical work. Go and feed your eyes. You can see more here, though nothing is like seeing them in person.
Their art reminds me of the Dionysian Retinue, of a faerie horde, of the harlequinade, and a thousand other terrifying and magical things. I can’t get enough of it.
The town the gallery is in, Hudson, NY, is a sweet little town. There are several nice places to eat (I recommend the French cafe — I forget its name), and some interesting shops (my favorite is the Red Chair). I can never afford the work in this gallery, but I think it’s valuable to go, look, feed the eyes, feed the soul. Art is magic, life, sacred and restores us in fundamental ways.
My husband introduced me to this piece of music today. I have it currently on my Dionysos play list because, for whatever reason, it puts me in headspace to honor Him. Today I think I played the Nirvana version something like fifty times as I painted, and it was like riding wod. A friend said to me today that she was always afraid that if she became an artist (and she is, oh her work is beautiful), she would not be able to call the talent forth at will, and one day inspiration might leave leaving her a “one hit wonder.” I assured her that there were so many ways, so many techniques, for opening oneself up to that inspiration, that creative frenzy, to wod. It was just a matter of learning them. One of the ways that I often use is music.
When I played this today, a day where I could barely walk — literally I had to be lifted out of a chair I was in so much agony because of my back and hips–the pain no longer mattered and there was only frenzy and color and the sound of spirits calling. I painted two things, powerful things all because I rode the music into the place from which wod flows and that music opened me up (1)
I can ride the wod when I’m doing spirit work for hours. My husband once cut me off after about seven hours of engaging the spirits (he did right — I hadn’t realized I’d gone into a deeply altered state. He helped me come back and get grounded again with minimal after effects). I can only ride it for an hour or two when it’s painting though. It’s a slightly different hue, a different taste, a different variety and I don’t yet have the stamina. Plus, paint has to dry and practically, it’s like having a tattoo. There’s that moment that one has to pee, or the tattoo artist goes out to smoke, and there’s a break. and the adrenaline and endorphins go away. Then starting up again really sucks. So I’m more mindful now, of the flow and rhythm of things. Everything is rhythm.
Enjoy this clip of Cobain playing a song that dates back to the early 1800s.
1. And I never, EVER liked Nirvana before. It was 99.999999% because one of my teachers fell apart and abandoned all responsibility to her students and working group when Cobain died. She just couldn’t handle it and I didn’t understand it then. She didn’t know him. Why was she so upset? Now I realize she was a guitarist, a musician, and he was a guiding force in her lineage.
Lineage is a fragile thing. I think about that every time I think about ballet, and I probably learned more about what it takes to maintain and nourish a lineage through having been a dancer than in all the studies and religious work I’ve done since. Lineage is connection, power, tradition, rootedness, identity, culture, and that culture is directed at maintaining and expressing something precious (be it devotion in our case as polytheists, or beauty and art, a different type of devotion, in the case of the dancers I’m discussing here). It is passed through bodies, through the stories, material culture, and lived experience of one generation to the next. One generation takes the next in hand, carefully forming them, teaching them, helping them, and entrusting to them whatever lineage and tradition it is that one carries. That is a sacred trust, something to be cherished, reverenced, protected.
In ballet, it’s not just greatness that is shaped this way, but the endurance of specific choreographies, pedagogies, and ballets themselves. One learns directly from those who danced before one. One dancer teaches a particular role to another, or a dancer begins to teach and passes on all he or she has learned to those students seeking to step into the art, and that is how the lineage and tradition survives. It is terrifyingly ephemeral. Break that chain and you can shatter the lineage.
It is the same with religious traditions, which is why intergenerational passage of knowledge i.e. polytheists raising children as polytheists, cultivating devotion from the womb is so terribly important. We don’t have the societal structure (yet) to support any type of devotion let alone ours, but we can make our households, our homes, our minds, and our hearts living temples to the Gods one by one. We can restore. There’s a line in the Talmud that says that to save a single soul is to save the entire world. I’d like to think that raising up one good polytheist or being one oneself, or leaving behind a body of work to help the next generation, is similarly restorative to our traditions in the world. Anyway, I’m digressing when instead I specifically want to talk about a break in ballet lineage.
In the mid 19th century, there were two main centers of ballet: France and Italy. Denmark also had a significant school. The Imperial Russian school existed but hadn’t yet come into the fullness of its tradition. That would take thirty plus years of Italian and French dancers and ballet masters working in St. Petersburg and sharing their knowledge, establishing clear lines of pedagogy, and training up several generations of dancers, each better than the last. After 1863 the locus of ballet moved to Italy and then Russia and French ballet fell into … not oblivion but let us say disregard. I’ll explain in a moment. It wasn’t until the Ballet Russe – shaped by French and Italian pedagogy – returned to Paris in the early 20thcentury that French ballet experienced a renaissance. I believe strongly that part of the reason for French ballet losing its place for close to a hundred years was the death of ballerina Emma Livry (and I will caution you before you read further, I’m going to talk about her death, and it was horrific).
In each generation there are dancers who stand out from the rest, the truly great artists and/or pedagogues. The heaviest weight of a tradition rests on their shoulders and they pass it on to their apprentices and students. They infuse the ballet tradition of a particular place with power, life, and vitality and make it shine like the sun in its glory. In the generation before Livry, the key dancers were Marie Taglioni (1804-1884) and Fanny Essler (1810-1884 – Essler actually visited the east coast of the US on one of her many tours! She performed in Baltimore). There was also Carlotta Grisi (1819-1899), Lucille Grahn (1819-1907), and Fanny Cerrito (1817-1909). It’s important to note that many of these women were also noted choreographers, a fact that until recently received very little attention (1). The same can be said for their predecessor Marie Salle (1709-1756). While all of these dancers at some point danced at the Paris Opera Ballet, it was Taglioni who truly reigned in Paris (and I think can probably be counted the greatest of the dancers mentioned here, though she and Essler were rivals on pretty equal terms technique-wise. Their artistic styles were almost diametrically opposed).
Emma Livry was Taglioni’s student and protegee. Before she met Taglioni, she debuted at age sixteen at the Paris Opera ballet in Taglioni’s signature role La Sylphide. When Taglioni saw her dance, she took Livry as a student and eventually choregraphed a ballet named Le Papillon (the butterfly) for the girl. Livry was incredibly talented and a noted sculptor at the time, Jean-Auguste Barre created sculptures of her. She was praised by ballet critics and it was clear, even in her own day, that she was the one destined to inherit the mantle of the French ballet tradition, and in doing so, carry it into the next generation. Sadly, tragically – and I don’t use that word often—that did not happen.
On November 15, 1862, during a ballet rehearsal, her skirts caught fire. At that time, stages were lit by gaslights, not electricity. There had been fire related deaths before due to this, so dancers had the option of fire-proofing their skirts. Livry, as many dancers, declined because the substance used in fireproofing made the skirts stiff, unpleasant, and more importantly heavy. When she went up in flames, two male dancers rushed to help her, but by the time they were able to put the fire out, she was so burned that the stays of her corset (dancers wore corsets when they danced in the 19th century) had burned/fused into her ribs. Her face and breasts were unburned. Taglioni was present and tried to help her as the girl as well, and it is recorded Livry prayed fervently immediately after the ordeal. She didn’t die immediately but lingered bed-bound for months in an agony it is recorded she bore with piety and stoicism, dying on July 26, 1863. She died of septicemia when her wounds reopened (they never really healed) at the age of twenty. She is buried in Montmartre Cemetery. I knew most of this from my own time in ballet, but here’s the wiki article on her.
As a dancer, Livry was particularly noted for her extraordinary ballon: the quality of her jumps, the ability to jump lightly and to seemingly hover in the air. Le Papillon was the only ballet Marie Taglioni ever choreographed.
Here’s the thing: the power of French ballet died with her for decades. It’s a noticeably glaring gap in the history of ballet. Many of the leading pedagogues had moved to St. Petersburg (which led to the glory days of the Imperial ballet there, and the Ballet Russe, which returned and repaid the debt to France generations later). Livry’s death, however, left a lacuna in the mid 19th century that no other French dancer could fill. I’m not the only historian to note this. I can’t recall where I read it, possibly here, but other historians have also pointed out that with Livry’s death, ballet in France went into a serious decline (2).
I will close by pointing out that the work you do matters. It doesn’t matter how big or small it is. It matters even if all you’re doing is choosing to pray or make an offering. In the eyes of our Gods, I do not believe this is insignificant. It is restoration, the whisper of lineage, devotion and in a tiny way, the restoration of our world. Never ever doubt that your lives matter, that the choices you make matter. You may not realize how much at the time. You don’t have to be a spiritual specialist like a spirit worker or priest for that to be true. It matters and what you create matters. So, find your devotional voice. Find the medium by which you will bring beauty into the world and throw yourself into it without hesitation. It doesn’t matter if others think it ‘good.’ Pray. Do your devotions. Bring beauty into the world and know that in doing so you are reweaving delicate threads of traditions through which the Gods, I think, are aching to express Themselves. You’re restoring windows to the world through which They can act. May be so always and may you be blessed in the striving.
- Until the past two, maybe three years, there was in ballet circles the mistaken idea that until the 20th century choreographers were male. Even now, it’s still seen as men choreograph, women dance. This is not the case at all though historically. Women, from the earliest significant periods of ballet, like Marie Salle in the 18th century, were choreographers, and noted as such in their heyday.
- The prestige of French ballet began to rise again in the 1920s (after the Ballet Russe re-infused ballet there with vitality). Several noted Imperial ballerinas, most especially Matilda Kchessinska , Olga Preobrajenska, and I believe, Lyubov Egorova began teaching in Paris. Then there was ballerina Yvette Chauvire and Claude Bessy, the latter the youngest child to ever be admitted to the Paris Opera Ballet School, and who later became director of the school. Both of whom helped train the incomparable Sylvie Guillem, and thus the tradition in France was revived, restored, and holds its place today as one of the great schools of modern ballet.
Why do I write about ballet, art, and music so much on a blog dedicated to polytheism/theological topics? Over and above my own involvement in these things, and the relevance of ancestor veneration and lineage ancestor veneration, I write about Art (and here, read this as multivalent: dance, music, writing, poetry, painting, sculpture, pottery, glassblowing, weaving, embroidery, sewing, etc. ALL art) because it is sacred. I write about it because it is a conduit through which the Gods may work. I write about it because bringing Art into the world at any level of competency is a holy thing. It drives back the Unmaker. It reaffirms creation. It aligns us with the Gods who carefully designed and wrought the worlds. It restores and cleanses and preserves the soul from evil. To bring art into the world, to facilitate its expression, to experience it with wonder, to allow it to work its healing is sacred. Not everyone is a priest or spirit-worker, shaman or other specialist. But just as everyone can pray, everyone can experience Art in some way, and doing so heals the soul of pollution and the fury of evil. It’s important, just as remembering and calling to mind our lineage ancestors is important.
It is not a waste of time to look at a painting and ponder it, to dance, however inexpertly, to music you like, to listen to a song, to embroider a pretty design, to make a wobbly pot, to practice an instrument, to muddle out a painting even if you think it sucks. Make art. Craft things. In all ways large and small, make it, inhale it, imbibe it, devour it, bring it into the world, and open space for others to experience it. Allow yourself this gift. It cleanses. It allows the Gods to speak.