Explorations Into Liminality
“and there came an arm and a hand above the water and met it and caught it, and so shook it thrice and brandished it, and then vanished away the hand with the sword in the water.”

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Wolf Moon, The Old Moon

The ever-inspiring Fantasy Artists of Etsy are my fellow FAE collaborators in the first of this year's monthly challenges, based on lunar appellation; Moon Names. A call to conjure and create! January is known as the Wolf Moon, and the Old Moon.

The Wolf Moon moniker is obvious; with chilling intensity the pack howls outside the walls of skin, of wood, of stone in the long cold nights, perhaps ever louder as the Moon waxes.

But what of the epithet of Old Moon? In my wanderings I couldn't find any reasons why the first moon of the calendar should be nicknamed so. Certainly the Moon IS old, like 4.6 billion years old. But the peoples who made the designation most likely didn't base their decision on a such a concept.

What did ring true for me has to do with Earthshine. Reflected sunlight illuminates the Moon's night side so that along with the full bright of the crescent, a pale glow of the remaining surface is visible. This phenomenon (thank you Mr. DaVinci for pointing it out) has come to be called the old Moon in the new Moon's arms. And indeed, it is as if the crescent is a cradling arm in the darkness.

So was Ella Wheeler Wilcox, an American Victorian poet, inspired by Earthshine in her poem "The Old Moon in the New Moon's Arms":

The beautiful and slender young New Moon,
In trailing robes of pink and palest blue,
Swept close to Venus, and breathed low: 'A boon,
A precious boon, I ask, dear friend, of you.'

'O queen of light and beauty, you have known
The pangs of love - its passions and alarms;
Then grant me this one favour, let my own -
My lost Old Moon be once more in my arms.'

Swift thro' the vapours and the golden mist -
The Full Moon's shadowy shape shone on the night,
The New Moon reached out clasping arms and kissed
Her phantom lover in the whole world's sight.

AND so, gartered and girded with my musings, may you be presented with a few of the creative offerings from the FAE team.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Hansel and Gretel Would Be Pagans

The off-beat creative bug had me itching to make something unusual for our annual pilgrimage to the Aunties’ house for Xmas this year. In addition to my usual concoctions of macaroni and cheese and homemade bread rolls shaped in a wreath, I was bent on making masses of sweeties. I was hearing my great Aunt whispering in my ear, coaxing me to make spritz cookies like she did all her life. So I added some real orange extract, sprinkled a variety of sanding sugar colors including black, and voila- delicate and delicious bouquet of flowers. I moved on to toffee, and peanut brittle, pretzels dipped in chocolate and rolled in peanuts, and creamsicle blondies, which I am still craving. Then came the gingerbread cookies. I found a fabulous recipe, wherein the cookies actually taste good and are not for calcifying on your tree. Sorting through the abundance of cutting shapes, I was drawn to my Halloween forms and knew I had to bring on the Yule-ness to the table at this get together. I grabbed the skulls, the owls, the brooms. And of course the witch hats. I did toss in a few trees, swans, doves, stars and moons, some trains and candy canes for the kids. My oldest son figured out how to make a pentacle, and he was delighted with his creation.

I decided Day of the Dead decorations on the skulls would be perfect, and the gingerbread lasses would have to be witches. Out came the neon variety of food coloring, which has the best tints, and royal icing became a wild palette of utterly non-traditional hues. We were up for hours decorating after the baking was finally done. I was cackling at the irreverence of it all, at the delightful mix of weirdness. Certainly a season to remember for us at home. However, not one person at the gathering on the 25th said one single word about the unusual offerings, except that they actually tasted good. Were they whispering behind me back? Don’t know. Don’t care. We have a new tradition :D