Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Imbolc, 2012...

Wednesday, February 1st, is the eve of the Pagan celebration of Imbolc, which honors the Celtic Goddess Brighid, the Light Bringer (Brighid meaning "exalted one").  Imbolc is a Fire Festival that acknowledges the approaching Spring.  It is known as a "cross-quarter day" because it sits directly between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox, two quarter points on the Pagan Wheel calendar of the eight yearly Sabbats.  It is to acknowledge that Spring will be arriving soon, and it heralds the return of the seasons life-giving energies.

On the eve of February 1st, pieces of ribbon, or cloth, were laid out for Brighid to bless as it was believed that she would walk among the villages during the night.  The following morning, if the cloth/ribbon pieces were marked, it meant that Brighid had paid them a visit and their household had been blessed.

The Goddess Brighid represents fertility and love.  She is associated with both the Sun and the Moon. Brighid is known as a Triple Goddess, as she is said to have three aspects: Goddess of Poetry and Healing, Smithcraft (metalworking), Inspiration and Divination.

When Ireland converted to Christianity, it was hard to convince the Irish to change their core beliefs.  Goddess Brighid had an extremely strong following, so the Christian Church decided to bring her over and assimilate her into their belief system.  Brighid was sainted, and St. Brigid's Day was born.  Stories were created to get the followers to leave their old beliefs enough to pull them away from the Druids, who were violently opposed to the Christians at that time.

The above statue of St. Brigid is located in Kildare, Scotland, by a healing well where a sacred flame was once tended by 19 priestesses.  When the Church sainted her making her St. Brigid, midwife to Mary, the well was made a Christianized shrine, and was later tended by nuns.  

The Irish Gaelic celebrate by honoring Oimelc, which means "ewe's milk". This time of the approaching Spring is when Ewes begin nursing their newborn lambs.

(Artist: John Duncan, "Saint Bride" c. 1913; Famous painting of the legend of the Irish Saint Bride who was transported to Bethlehem to attend the nativity of Christ.  The painting is a depiction of two angels carrying the saint across the sea.) 
In Scotland they have their version of the Spring celebration.  Winter is represented by the Cailleach, also known as the 'old woman of Winter'.   Their Fire Festival celebrates the Cailleach being reborn as Bride, the young maiden of spring.

The Cailleach is the Dark Goddess of nature.  The name came to mean "old wife", but actually means "veiled one" (an epithet applied to those who belong in hidden worlds).  Another word often attached to Cailleach is 'Bheur', which means shrill.

The Cailleach personifies the harshness of Winter.  On the Eve of Bride, she journeys to a magical isle where, deep in the isles woods, lies a miraculous well of youth.  At the dawn, the Cailleach drinks of the well and is transformed into Bride, the fair maid who waves her wand and turns the earth from brown to green again.

February 2nd, is also the day for the celebration of Candlemas, the Festival of Light.  It is a time for honoring the Gods & Goddesses of hearth and home.  A feast is held for the purification of the Virgin.  Jewish law stated that it took 40 days from the birth of a son for a woman to be cleansed.  40 days from the birth of Christ is February 2nd.

Romans had the celebration of Lupercalia, also with a purification theme, and focused on the founding of Rome.  A ritual was held where a goat was sacrificed, and a scourge was made of its hide.  Thong clad men would run the city streets hitting people with strips of the hide.  Those struck were seen as being very fortunate.  (Sounds kinky to me.)

In ancient Egypt, February 2nd marked the celebration of the Feast of Nut.  Nut was the mother figure to the Sun God Ra.  The 2nd marks Nuts' birthday.

(Maiden, Mother, Crone)
(Triple Moon Sign)
Then there is the more neopagan/Wiccan belief of the Triple Goddess, or maiden/mother/crone.  The three figures are also represented in the Triple Moon Sign.

  • Maiden:   She is the Virgin.  A girl/woman who hasn't awakened yet. She represents new beginnings, enthusiasm, and youthful ideas. She is represented in the Moon as it passes from the dark phase to full phase (the waxing Moon).

  • Mother:   Represents fertility and sexuality.  She is about abundance, growth, and fulfillment.  She is the full Moon.  She reigns in the fertile and green days of Spring, and early days of Summer.    The mother is coming into play as Spring approaches.

  • Crone:   She is represented in the final stage of the year.  The old and wise woman, she resides in the dark night, and in death.  The Crone comes into play in the Winter, as the earth becomes dormant and dies.  She is represented in the waning Moon, as it goes from full phase to dark phase.
The history and stories surrounding the various celebrations I listed above all have variations on the theme, but the basic essence of each one is there.  

To those celebrating this mid-point on the way to the Equinox:

Sunday, January 29, 2012


As happens from time to time, I was looking up some stuff on the Internet and saw a picture that sparked my interest.  It is the one featured above. (I was unable to locate any info on who the medium is in the picture.  If someone reading this knows, please leave a comment.)  This picture is completely unrelated to what I had been researching, but it does reflect a subject I have been intrigued about before.  Ectoplasm. I know that it is associated with the world of mediums, and is said to be formed by "physical" mediums.  But, what exactly is ectoplasm?

(Unfortunately, FOX blocked the above video on YouTube, so it was deleted.)

The above movie clip is from "The Legend of Hell House".  Released in 1973, it marks my first encounter with the subject of ectoplasm.  (If you have never seen the film, I recommend it.  It is a definite classic in the world of movies based on the paranormal.)  Although effective for it's time and in the context used, the formation of 'ectoplasm' would not exude from a mediums fingertips. Before I get a little ahead of myself here, it is important to know what a 'physical medium' is.

As with 'mediums' on the whole, physical mediums are the conduit of communication between the living and the dead.  You have mediums whose gifts manifest on more of a mental line, communicating through methods such as channeling.  Successful links with the spiritual are expressed verbally, through writing, etc.  Physical mediums contact is exhibited through more "physical" means separate from their actual bodies.  Disembodied voices, knocks, raps, the materialization of spirits, objects moving, apports (paranormal materialization of an object), and even levitation.  I used the term "conduit" before.  The medium can almost be described as a battery that a spirit uses as a power source for manifesting. After a 'true' session or seance, it can take hours or even a couple of days for a medium to recover from one of these energy drains.  

(supposed ectoplasm cloud)

Another one of these physical manifestations is the formation of ectoplasm.  Rather controversial, ectoplasm has taken on some new definitions in more recent times.  The movie "Ghostbusters" described it as a rather slippery substance that was produced by ghosts...getting "slimed".  Paranormal investigating has become extremely popular in a more public sense, the list of television shows with a paranormal bent acting as testament.  The term "ghost mist" is said to be a cloud of ectoplasmic substance.  Some say it is a residue left to indicate a spirit had recently been there, while others say it is produced by electro-magnetic energy radiating up from the earth that forms "ecto-clouds". None of the current definitions are as dramatic or impressive as the original formations the moniker was created for.

(Charles Richet)

The creation of the word 'ectoplasm' is credited to French physiologist, and president of the "Society For Psychical Research" (1905), Charles Richet. The term comes from the Greek words "ektos" and "Plasma", which basically translate to 'exterriorized substance'.  During the late 1800's, this word was used to describe the odd formations created from physical mediums who were in a trance like state.  A formation of gauze-like secretions that were produced from orifices of the medium, specifically the mouth, nose, and ears (other orifices were mentioned...I'll leave it at that). Some traditional tools of the physical medium are 'spirit cabinets', 'spirit trumpets', and 'levitation tables'. The cabinets and trumpets seem to be more closely related to the appearance of ectoplasm.

(Medium, Ethel Post Parrish, 1953...spirit of "Silver Belle" appearing out of ectoplasm)
(Left: Spirit trumpet; Right: Levitation table)

What is ectoplasm made of?  There are a number of substances said to be a part of this mysterious secretion.  Elements of the physical body of the medium.  In the case of group/circle seances, elements can also come from clothing, furniture, and carpeting.  Then there are the spiritual elements of this apport (ectoplasm).  Elements of the spiritual planes (astral, etheric, causal, or mental substances) that naturally exist there, but are brought to this plane temporarily.  

(English medium,
Jack Webber

What is ectoplasm's purpose?  Once ectoplasm is formed it is said that spirits can use this otherworldly gauze to 'clothe' themselves on our plane of existence.  They use it so that those present can see them.  Some interesting tidbits about ectoplasm:  it is formed in darkened rooms;  The sudden introduction of bright white light in the room can cause the ectoplasm to flash back immediately into the producing mediums body causing them great harm, from burns and hemorrhages, to death;  There are strong warnings to not touch ectoplasm unless you have the approvals of the spirits, the repercussions being the same as with the introduction of light.  

(Scottish medium, Helen Duncan

While I was doing a bit of research for this post, I came across this supposed account of actual experiences with ectoplasm as shared by a man named Leslie D.  The site owners who posted the article don't know when it was written.  I found this excerpt intriguing and creepy:

"In my own physical home circle we could see a grey mist hovering over the circle in the dark, which was an indication that some phenomena might start at any moment. On occasions, sitters would feel themselves to be gently touched by spirit entities - when this happened to me, I would ask permission to feel further, and once felt a fully materialised hand, complete with finger nails, quite warm and natural, but terminating at the wrist, and tapering into a narrow fringe attached to a psychic rod. Amazing! At a Gordon Higginson séance at Stansted Hall, I saw it billowing like waves across the floor from the cabinet, until it reared up and tried to form into a proper structure. These fully formed materialised figures really appear to be living flesh and blood, and when they de-materialise, they seem to melt and sink into the floor. The garments they wear can feel like silk, or often a more coarse material. In 1916, W J Crawford discovered by his own experiments that ectoplasmic formations could become as solid and as strong as steel!" ~ Leslie D.

(Medium, Marjorie Crandon)
(Medium, Mary M.,

As with most (if not all) topics of a paranormal bent, science thinks the appearance and formation of actual ectoplasm to be a hoax.  None of the supposed evidence put forth has been accepted as absolute proof.  Various tests of supposed samples of ectoplasm are said to have produced nothing that can be described as paranormal in nature.  Parapsychologists say that research does suggest that the production of ectoplasm does happen.  

(Marjorie Crandon)

The existence of ectoplasm is supported by a number of belief systems, Voo Doo, Spiritualism, and New Age groups to name a few.  (New Age is the description of the coming Age of Aquarius, of which we are said to be shifting into now.)  As with the laundry list of paranormal topics that have the believers and non-believers at odds, I think the only way to know that ectoplasm is for real, is for an individual to experience the phenomena first hand.  The physical medium doesn't seem to be as prevalent as it once was.  I am sure that they are still out there, but going by what several sources of info said, it is harder to find mediums who are willing to go to the extent of ectoplasm production due to the toll it takes on the physical body.  Whether that's true or not, if I were given an opportunity to witness something like that I would grab it.  

As with most paranormal "talents", there are always a fair number of charlatans who pass their fakery off on the unsuspecting.  I am not gullible and look at everything from a realistic perspective.  By the same token, I do believe that there are occurrences that defy scientific explanation.

To quote the late great Frank Zappa...

"A mind is like a parachute.  It doesn't work if it's not open." 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Catholic Cemetery...

Bonaventure.  Laurel Grove.  Colonial Park.  All historic cemeteries here in Savannah.  Very old, and quite beautiful.  Laurel Grove North has become my favorite, with the Bonaventure a close second.

As a Cemetery Photographer, I have only been involved in this particular interest for the last few years.  Spending time in a cemetery is one of the most grounding and calming activities I have ever experienced.  I have met others with this same interest via the social sites of MySpace (before it switched to encompass more of the world of bands), and Facebook.  There are a lot of us out there.  Some may think of cemeteries as being scary and morbid, but there are plenty of us who see much more.  Any articulating I might do on behalf of my love of cemeteries may fall on a number of deaf ears who can't relate, but...maybe those individuals would be able to glean some of the beauty and mystery I see from my pictures?

Yesterday, I ventured out to explore a cemetery that up to that point had been unexplored by me.  Located in a pretty and residential area not too far from where I live is the Catholic Cemetery.  Still in use, the signs at the main entrance refer to it as the HillCrest cemetery.  The newer section has nowhere near the artistry and the historical beauty of the section I was there to investigate.  That being said...

Heading down Skidaway Road, the off-shooting roads here and there were at odd angles, and many in number.  Trying to keep track of street signs was proving futile, so I was glad that I had Googled a map with driving directions.  I didn't have a print out of the map, so I was relying on memory recall, and a bit of blind luck.  Staying as true as I could to staying on the main drag, the cemetery was suddenly there.  It was almost as if it popped into existence. Veering onto Wheaton Road, I turned into the cemetery at the "older" end.

The older section of graveyard was concentrated at one end.  I was rather surprised to see that there isn't any sort of protective wall between it and the hi-traffic filled street in front.  When I was looking up location information on it, I learned that it had been vandalized in August of 2009.  I noticed evidence of this unspeakable act when I first drove onto the site.  I immediately noticed a large, beautiful, and very old monument with an angel inside...the angel's head and one of its wings were gone (that's it in the picture).  I noticed a few more signs of the damage as I walked around.  None of the information I read about the crime said that the perpetrators had been caught.  It was unclear as to whether they even had a clue as to who did it.  It's such sad commentary on certain members of the human race who would exact such acts of extreme disrespect.

Visually I could kind of tell that the stones and statues closest to the street were among the oldest.  The farther I went back in the older section, I could see burials that were slightly newer (if you can count the 1930's as "newer"). As I weaved my way through the graves snapping a picture here and there, I could hear rather cacophonous signs of life from next door.  Interestingly enough, there is a school on the other side of the thick growth laden fence. Grade school from the sounds I heard.  It was clearly recess.

I got some pictures that I am quite happy with, and I suspect that I will revisit the site at some point.  Although old and picturesque, it can't compete for my attentions with the north portion of Laurel Grove.  In terms of Gothic mood, Laurel Grove has it in spades.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Foggy Morn' On The Marsh...

Surreal morning
wafts of mist
as if
a cloud
the earth
in a 
of ethereal
~  Brenda Finch, 2005
Opening the door to retrieve the newspaper, I looked out on a grey foggy morning. A chill hung in the air, and the intermittent sprinkling of sparsely spread raindrops fell from sky and tree branch.  Above distant condo buildings, I could see a collection of avian marsh denizens soaring and wheeling in the area of the pond I frequent.  It had been some time since I had last checked in on the early morning marsh, so I changed into more appropriate clothing and set out with camera in hand.

It was so calming.  So quiet.  I would be hard pressed to find a more peaceful spot at that particular moment.  Over the weeks since the Winter Solstice, the temperatures have been mild for the most part, daytime numbers resting within the boundaries of 55 to 75 degrees.  This morning it felt like winter.  Slightly warmer than usual for this time of year, but enough of a chill to satisfy.

Fog. Trees naked except for haphazard drapings of moss.  Dull drips of rain creating beads of moisture on limb and twig, the glimmering transparent drops resembling ice.  Various brown hues of dormant marsh grasses.  Low teasing breeze playing around and through...everything.  It may not feel like full-blown winter weather yet, but cooler temperatures were definitely around the marsh this morning.

The Art Of Divination...

My recent post about the Tarot brought me into contact with a couple of beautiful paintings involving the cards, and the 'cartomancer'.  Every now and again I will put together a themed post of classic paintings and related quotes.  I went about compiling some quotes for this Tarot themed post, and interestingly enough, there aren't a lot of them out there.  I ended up with a few quotes, an old poem, and some jokes related to the world of Divination.  Those and a number of really beautiful works of art.  I found many more paintings with cartomancy (card reading) as a theme, but picked what I thought to be some of the best...including a palm reader, and a couple of Crystal Ball gazers...
("The Fortune Teller", Theodore Von Holst, 1840)
"It's said that the shuffling of the cards is the earth, and the pattering of the cards is the rain,
and the beating of the cards is the wind, and the pointing of the cards is the fire.  That's of the four suits.
But the greater Trumps, it's said, are the meaning of all process and the measure of the everlasting dance."

~ Charles Walter Stansby Williams (British Science Fiction & Fantasy author)

("Fortune Teller With A Candle", Orest Kiprinsky, 1830)
"Last night I stayed up late playing Poker with Tarot cards.
I got a full house and four people died."
~ Steven Wright

("La Tireuse des Cartes" (The Fortune Teller), Jehan Georges Vibert, c. 1840-1902)
"Love, under whose Empire many deeds
go without Time and without Fortune,
saw Death, ugly and dark, on a Chariot,
going among the people it took away from the World.
She asked: "No Pope nor Papesse was ever won
by you.  Do you call this Justice?"
He answered: "He who made the Sun and the Moon
defended them from Strength."
"What a Fool I am," said Love, "my Fire,
that can appear as an Angel or as a Devil
can be Tempered by some others who live under my Star.
You are the Empress [Ruler] of bodies.  But you cannot kill hearts,
you only Suspend them.  You have a name of high Fame,
but you are nothing but a Trickster." "

~ 'Sonnet' by Teofilo Folengo, c. 1527
   From his work:  Caos del Triperiuno
   Written under the pseudonym:  Merlini Cocai

The above Sonnet mentions the 22 Trump cards 
(Major Arcana) of the Tarot.  

("Fortune Teller", Georges De La Tour, 1632-35)
"The true Tarot is symbolism; it speaks no other language and offers no other signs."

~ Arthur E. Waite (Co-creator Rider-Waite Tarot Deck)

("The Fortune Teller", Nelson A. Primus, 1898)
"Playing cards may seem ordinary, but they contain the history of the world inside them."
~Author Unknown

("The Fortune Teller", Sir Edward John Poynter, 1877)
'The short fortune teller who escaped from prison was a small medium at large.'

("Cartomancy", Alexey Venetsianov, 1842)
"Welcome to Divination," said Professor Trelawny, who had seated herself in a winged armchair in front of the fire.  "My name is Professor Trelawny.  You may not have seen me before.  I find that descending too often into the hustle and bustle of the main school clouds my Inner Eye."

~Prof. Sybil Trelawny, Professor of Divination, Hogwartz School of Witchcraft & Wizardry

("Les Saltimbanques" (Entertainers), Gustave Dore, 1874) 
Two Psychics meet.  One says to the other, "You are fine.  How am I?"

("The Crystal Ball", John William Waterhouse, 1902)
("Jeune Femme Se Tirant Les Cartes" (Young Woman Drawing Cards),
Marie Aimme Eliane Lucas-Robiquet,  1890) 

("The Palm Reader", Harry Herman Roseland, c. 1867-1950)
("Fortune Teller", Mikhail Vrubel, 1895)