Month: October 2014

Halloween- spells and charms

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Every year, on 31th of October millions of people celebrate one pagan custom, which impose trick and treaty, many pumpkins and a lot much more sweets for the children. A long time ago, before being converted into a global phenomenon, Halloween was simply an Irish custom, practiced by small population of catholic people. One interesting fact is that the only place in the world where Halloween is celebrated and praised as a national holiday is Ireland, where the children are excused not to go to school on this day.

But that is not the end of it, even much more earlier, around 2,000 years ago the Celtic ‘s festival Samhain is strongly related to the present day Halloween. According to The World Book Encyclopedia. “The Celts believed that the dead could walk among the living at this time. During Samhain, the living could visit with the dead.” More importantly, it was the most significant holiday in the Celthics’ year, the time when the dead were finishing their journey from the otherworld. People believed that their ghosts would travel and haunt the world on this day, probably lost and melancholic, forsaken and abandoned by the world they had left behind.

The celtic people had only two seasons : winter and summer, therefore “Samhain” means ‘summer’s end” celebrating the harvesting season and the beginning of their new year as well. To top it all, they believed that there was something superficially magic even sacral during that day, as it represented the summer’s abundance and the winter’s hollowness, as if two distinctly different powers collided into one another.

That day was related to the All Hallows Eve, which was the day before the All Saints Day (presumable on 1st November), the Catholic Church decided the latter to be the day on which all pagans were converted into Christianity.

The festive became even more popular during the time. The first celebration of the festive by the Irish people involved in itself, pot clanging used for telling the death that they were not forgotten as well as bon firing to scare them away, preventing them from getting to close to the living. Sometimes people placed food and water for the ghost in hope of quenching their thirst and feeding them in order to appease them.

However, that celebration is not only for the dead ones, but for the living,too. As a matter of fact, the scotish romantic poet Robert Burns wrote a poem about it, it is titled “Hallowe’n”, which was prevailingly popular among the young people in the 19th century.

“Some merry, friendly, countra-folks

Together did convene,

To burn their nits, an’ pou their stocks,

An’ haud their Halloween

Fu’ blythe that night. “

This is only part of the poem,which is richly filled with strange rituals performed at that time, some magic, some charms and spells. For instance, one ritual involved nut burning, it was used as a weapon of saying whether two people would be faithful to one another. Two nuts were placed in the fare if they burned together, the two lovers shall be together forever, if one of the nut cracked or jumped out of the fire, their happing would be doomed. Another one was called a “looking-glass spell” in which one person were supposed to eat apple in front of a mirror, after that if  she/he looked carefully they would see how the reflection of their true lover was peaking over their shoulder secretly. Final example of future telling is the picking straw, in which an young woman had to pull three oat straws from a stalk of oats and if the third straw had grains on its top, that woman shall lose her virginity before marriage.

Halloween couldn’t be recognizable without one particular object : the flicking pumpkins or jack-o-lantern. The origin of which is doubtful one, one people claim to belief that it is related to the irish fable of Stingy Jack. In a nutshell is about how Jack tricked the Satan and then he died. He was not able to enter the Heaven as he sinned, neither the Hell,so he started wandering around. He was able to beg a coal from Satan in order to light his way and he put the coal inside of a carved-out turnip and thus the jack o’ lantern. The lost soul. Another source claims that during the 18th century the kids used turnips first instead of a pumpkins, they were called  Hoberdy’s Lanterns and they were noticed in in Worcestershire, England

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Can we understand Van Eyck or Is there some mystery behind The Arnolfini Marriage’s portrait?

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Behind the curtains of one of the most prominent pieces of art ever made, stood one uncertainty and even mysterious allurement towards it. The piece of art under question is The Arnolfini Marriage by Jan van Eyck, produced around 1434.
According to the art historian Ernst Gombrich that portrait as he said it “in its own way it was as new and revolutionary as Donatello’s or Masaccio’s work in Italy. A simple corner of the real world had suddenly been fixed on to a panel as if by magic … For the first time in history the artist became the perfect eye-witness in the truest sense of the term”
Indeed, the revolutionary spectacle in the form of art is even more that blatantly obvious, with its religious symbolism, the mirror as a weapon to reflect the space and its domesticated atmosphere making us witnesses to moment of utmost importance – a marriage as the vast majority of the art historians agree upon it.
The picture is a portrait of Italian merchant Giovanni di Nicolao Arnolfini and possibly his wife,presumably in their home in the Flemish city of Bruges. However, the thing that captivates the mind of many people is what exactly all the objects represent and whether there is some secret buried within the picture. Is there a puzzle or it’s only production of our lack of understanding of one piece of art aiming merely to represent the distant reality as it was?
The fruits
The casually scattered and illuminated by the day light oranges capture our attention, even if we try to ignore them. Some art historians adhere to the idea that they are sheer representation of wealth as in that time to have an oranges was a luxury. By contrast, another assume that they possess religious meaning, strictly related with the garden of Eden, telling as that the first sin, the sin of consumption is done. But why were they not apples? Or Eyck wanted a much more subtle representation of that symbol. Probably, it could be both.
The hand gesture
Giovanni di Nicolao Arnolfini’’s hand gesture could be interpreted in many ways as well. According to elaborate research on the layers of the picture, Van Eyck made an several correction of the position of the hand. Many people agree that in that way Giovanni could be given his marriage’s promise to his future wife. Nevertheless, the gesture itself is so familiar to us from iconic Christians form of art, that it could be considered indeed as blessing, but to whom. In addition, Giovonni face is represented in rather melancholic seriousness, did he bless his wife holding her one hand while his right hand pointed towards the Heaven or not.

The chandelier
That element couldn’t be missed, it’s captured in the most clear way possible imagined. The chandelier and the lack of kindle above Giovanni’s wife could be interpreted only as a death or untimely demise and loss. Therefore, we could see how the image of the death and the birth intertwined into each other in the picture. From the posture of the woman we are able to speculate about her pregnancy, despite the fact that at that time those kind of dress was widely worn. However, her hand’s gesture of protection is much more reassuring than anything else, she placed her hand in front of her belly while giving her right hand in the palm of her husband, looking at him in submissive peaceful manner.
The mirror
The most fascinating object in the whole picture, we shouldn’t dismiss it. On the edges of the glass are illustrated ten series of Passion of Christ, another religious connection. But the most interesting part is hidden from our eyes and we are in power only to speculate about the glass’s reflection, which could be the key to the meaning of the painting. In general, the concave mirrors become symbol of mysticism and some secret invisible to the naked eyes. As we could see there two figures entering the room in which the man and woman stood, but who are they. The artist himself and a priest maybe or someone else, nobody knows for sure. However, the sensation that those two figures are welcoming rather than referred as intruders could only fuse the speculation of some anticipation something to be on the verge of happening.
Finally, we should bear in mind the fact that it was discovered that before the picture was finished or even made the woman on it had died. So practically , this is representation of both wedding ceremony and idealized farewell to her, as a form of giving the last blessing before the departure to the afterlife.