Happy Birthday Georgia O’Keeffe

 

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Today we celebrate the life of Georgia O’Keeffe!  She was an American artist, most famous for her abstract paintings of flowers, bones, and natural landscapes. She herself was a force of nature as well, leaving an imprint and legacy not easily forgotten.

Once you experience her artwork — well — flowers will never look the same again!

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Born on November 15, 1887, in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, Georgia was the second of seven children. Her parents were dairy farmers who valued education and encouraged their children to explore various interests. The wide Wisconsin landscape, with its vibrant hollyhocks, lilies, irises and greenery, no doubt influenced the young Georgia.  Artistic talent seemed to run in the family, as two of her grandmothers had been amateur painters.

Georgia attended college at the prestigious Art Institute of Chicago, quickly climbing to top of her class. Later she studied at New York City’s Art Student’s League. It was in New York that she was first introduced to modern art movements of the early twentieth century. She visited galleries, in particular Gallery 291, founded by photographers Alfred Stieglitz and Edward Steichen.

Located at 291 5th Avenue, 291 frequently introduced new work of modern European and American artists.

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It was Alfred Stieglitz who first displayed O’Keeffe’s work — a series of charcoal drawings — at a gallery exhibition in 1916. The unusual drawings were an overnight success. Within two years, Georgia, who had earned her living through teaching, moved to New York City and became part of a group of avant-garde artists.

For a woman, recognition in the male dominated art world was dubious and rare. Nonetheless, Georgia held her own, winning recognition among critics and patrons. She became the highest paid female artist in the US. O’Keeffe, however, never considered herself a ‘feminist’. She wanted to be thought of as simply ‘an artist’ rather than ‘a female artist’.

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Although Alfred Stieglitz was a married man, and twenty three years older than O’Keeffe, the two became lovers. In 1924 Alfred left his wife to marry Georgia.

Like all aspects of his life, Alfred made his new bride into a work of art.

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Georgia continued to develop her craft. She began to experiment with perspective, painting close-ups of flowers. The first of these was Petunia No. 2, which was exhibited in 1925, followed by works such as Black Iris (1926) and Oriental Poppies (1928).

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“If I could paint the flower exactly as I see it no one would see what I see because… the flower is small. So I said to myself –  I’ll paint it big and they will be surprised into taking time to look at it – I will make even busy New Yorkers take time to see what I see of flowers.” — Georgia O’Keeffe

I should mention that these are no quaint little blooms, but more like Alice Through the Looking Glass, grow-so-incredibly-high jungle blossoms, painted on canvasses big enough for you to walk into.

For almost a century, art critics have been insisting that O’Keeffe’s flower paintings were meant to resemble female genitalia. Georgia herself vehemently denied this. What do you think?

Georgia O'Keeffe art

“I feel there is something unexplored about women that only a woman can explore.” — Georgia O’Keeffe

In the 1930’s, Georgia found new inspiration in the American west and Navajo culture when she began to visit New Mexico. She found simple yet sublime beauty in the desert, frequently painting landscapes and animal skulls. Cool, huh?

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Meanwhile, back in New York, Stieglitz had begun to mentor a young photographer named Dorothy Norman. The two developed a close relationship and – you guessed it! The married Stieglitz began an affair with Dorothy. Georgia became jealous and suffered  bouts of depression. In 1933 she was hospitalized for a nervous breakdown and did not paint for a whole year.  The nervous breakdown was reportedly due to ‘a broken heart’.  (Oh Alfred, you philanderer!)

Her recovery lead her back to New Mexico where she eventually bought property at Ghost Ranch and lived there permanently.  However, she never divorced Stieglitz who remained her one true love.

In his later years, Stieglitz’s health deteriorated. He died of a stroke in 1946 at the age of 82. Georgia was with him when he died and was the executor of his estate.

In 1949, Georgia was elected to the National Institute of Arts and Letters. In the 1950s and 1960s, she continued to paint and travel the world, finding inspiration in places she visited.  In 1970, a retrospective of her work was shown at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City.

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“Nothing is less real than realism. Details are confusing.  It is only by selection, by elimination, by emphasis — that we get at the real meaning of things.”  — Georgia O’Keeffe

Unfortunately, as Georgia became older she suffered from macular degeneration and began to lose her eyesight. She painted her last unassisted oil painting in 1972. However,  she never los her love of art and her desire to create. She still continued to create art in the form of sculpture and writing. Her bestselling autobiography Georgia O’Keeffe was published in 1976.

Georgia died on March 6, 1986 at the age of 98.  Her body was cremated and her ashes were scattered, as she wished, on the land around Ghost Ranch (perhaps becoming its final ghost?)  The spirit of Ms. O’Keeffe will remain influential forever!

“I have lived on a razor’s edge. So what if you fall off? I’d rather be doing something I wanted to do. I’d walk it again.”  — Georgia O’Keeffe

Happy Birthday Georgia!

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Halloween Quiz! Which Vampire Are You?

 

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Vampires are the quintessential outsiders. Often beautiful and ruthless, they will stop at nothing in their quest for survival.  Although some mortal folk become squeamish at the idea of blood drinking, there is no denying that blood is the life force of all humanity. We should welcome rather than fear it.

Personally, I feel there is a bit of vampire in everyone.

If given the chance to become immortal, would you accept it? Which vamp lifestyle would you prefer?  Are you southern charmer Bill Compton of True Blood fame? Perhaps the treacherous Lestat of Anne Rice’s lore? The horrifying Nosferatu? Or the indomitable Eric Northman?

 

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Find out your undead identity!

CLICK HERE to take the quiz.

(If ads come up just skip them and go to the next question)

Let me know who you get!

As for me, no big surprise!  Having read so much Bram Stoker, such was my fate 🙂

You got: Dracula

You’re the quintessential vampire—snarky, wise beyond your years, and resourceful. You have a dramatic, commanding presence, a flair for throwing grandiose parties, and a way of charming the opposite sex. Just be careful not to abuse your immense power.

 

 

 

 

 

Halloween Countdown: Soul Cakes

 

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“A soul! a soul! a soul-cake!
Please good Mistress, a soul-cake!
An apple, a pear, a plum, or a cherry,
Any good thing to make us merry.”  — Soul Cake Song

 
Long before trick-or-treaters donned masks and Halloween became an international franchise, our Medieval ancestors had a different (and much more solemn) way of celebrating.  During these festivities, poor children went door to door, begging for cakes or bread in a tradition called ‘Souling’.

The basic idea was, you give the kid a cake and he or she says a prayer for one of your dead relatives. It was a win/win situation: a charitable donation for accumulated prayers.

Although Halloween/Samhain was originally a Pagan festival, when the Roman Church grew to power in the 4th century, it (like so many other Pagan celebrations) was hijacked and morphed to fit church traditions.

Hallowtide festivities in the Middle Ages took place over a period of three days, beginning on October 31 and ending on November 2. Three different holidays were  celebrated during this time.

All Hallows Eve (October 31st) was a day to honor deceased relatives.  It was customary to go to the graveyard, bring offerings of ‘soul cakes’ and wine, and commune with the dead, as veils to the otherworld were lifted. Visitors would light candles or bonfires and ring bells to help attract surreal  entities.

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All Saints Day (November 1st) was a day to honor saints, while All Souls Day (November 2nd) paid tribute to ALL the souls of the departed.  On All Souls day, children would go door to door hoping to receive soul cakes.  Whenever you gave a child a cake, he or she then had an obligation to say a prayer or sing a song for one of your deceased relatives — who just might be doing time in Purgatory, waiting to enter heaven.

By giving out soul cakes, you could get extra prayers for your loved ones, thus keeping them from the clutches of Satan.

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First recorded in the 5th century, the tradition of giving soul cakes continued on in some parts of England as late as the 1890’s.

So, what exactly was a soul cake?

Soul cakes took many different shapes and sizes. In some areas, they were simple shortbread, and in others they were baked as fruit-filled tarts. Some were an early form of French toast, making use of stale or day old bread to be given to the poor.  Ingredients, of course, were used according to what was most available in the community.

If you’d like to try your own hand a whipping up some soul cakes for Halloween, here are a few recipes.

This one dates all the way back to 1350!

TRADITIONAL SOUL BREAD

6 large dinner rolls
2 eggs, beaten
4 tbsp. butter, melted
1/4 cup currants
1 tsp. ground ginger and cinnamon combined
1/4 tsp. salt
Pinch of saffron

Grind saffron, mix with butter and set aside. Cut centers out of rolls to make a little bowl, reserving removed breadcrumbs. Mix eggs, currants, butter mixture, ginger, cinnamon and salt. Pour over breadcrumbs (which preferably has been dried out first) and stir carefully until all bread is evenly coated. Stuff rolls with mixture. Put about an inch of water in the bottom of a large pan and bring it to boil. Then put in the rolls, reduce heat, and simmer for 15 minutes with the pan tightly covered. Remove immediately from water with a slotted spoon and serve hot.

Source: Curye on Inglish. Middle English recipes
Oxford University Press.

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If you’d like a more modern recipe, try these:

PIE CRUST SOUL CAKES

You’ll need:

  • A refrigerated roll-out pie crust
  • 2 Tbs. melted butter
  • 1 C mixed dried fruit
  • 2 Tbs honey

Roll out the pie crust and cut it into circles. Use the circles to line a tin of muffin cups. Mix the butter, fruit and honey together. Scoop the fruit mixture into the pastry shells, and then bake for 15 minutes at 375 degrees. Allow to cool for about ten minutes before eating.

Source: Recipes for Halloween

Your trick or treaters will no doubt be delighted!

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On the other hand, parents will be suspicious of anything hand made and not wrapped… so you may want to keep your soul treats all to yourself 🙂

And finally! For your listening pleasure, here is a lovely version of the Soul Cake Song, performed in Medieval ballad style by Kristen Lawrence. Hope you enjoy it!

Happy Souling!

 

 

 

 

 

Fun on Friday the 13th

 

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Our final Friday the 13th of this year happens to fall in October, the same month as Halloween. Supernatural vibes are high for the entire month. This Friday the 13th will be particularly sacred and special for a number of reasons, and we should celebrate accordingly!

Interestingly, the numbers 13 and Halloween’s date of 31 share a numeric root of 4. The number 4 symbolizes structure, stability, logic, reason, power and control.  The number 13, which is the inverted, or ‘flip side’ of 4, symbolizes change, transformation, mystery, mysticism and upheaval.  As such, this Friday the 13th is a great time to establish control of the supernatural, and seek the type of transformation that will lead to power and stability.

In honor of this day, I am offering 13 suggestions for some interesting, other-worldly and transformative things you could do to celebrate.

1. Visit a haunted house!

‘Tis the season, and haunted houses are in full swing all around the country. They offer fun and exhilaration, plus the added bonus — great fear leads to great release of tension.  (Ever notice how everyone is always laughing when they come out?)  If you are near Chicago, this video will help you choose one to attend.

 

2.  Invite the gang over for a séance!

If you have some adventurous friends who are open minded, this night is particularly good for contacting the otherworld, before the BIG lifting of the veils on Halloween.

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If your friends are not game, you can always do your own private séance. Light a candle for your loved ones. Find your breath in the darkness and silence. Invite spirits of the dearly departed to help and guide you.

3.  Watch a Hitchcock movie!

Believe it or not, the Master of Suspense, Alfred Hitchcock, was actually born on a Friday the 13th! Honor him by watching one of his cinematic gems. I recommend The Birds, but there are a bunch of great ones to choose from.

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4. Adopt a black cat.

Contrary to popular belief, black cats can be very lucky, and they make great companions! Support your local shelter by giving a home to one of these black beauties. For more information about lucky black cats CLICK HERE.

5. Do a 13 card tarot reading.

For Tarot aficionados, this will be easy. Use the traditional Celtic cross spread of ten cards, but at the end add three more cards.  Interpret these three as aspects of transformation, stability and luck. If you do not read Tarot personally, consider visiting your local soothsayer, or contact one via internet.

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6. Bake a batch of 13 cupcakes.

A group of 13 is also known as a ‘Baker’s dozen’. Interestingly, the phrase ‘Baker’s dozen’ originated in Medieval England. Bakers had a practice of throwing in one extra loaf of bread when selling a dozen, in order to avoid being penalized for shortchanging their customers. Weird as it sounds, the bakers could actually be fined, sent to the pillory or whipped for cheating their customers!

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(Sounds like one Medieval practice we should bring back, as portions mysteriously ‘shrink’ at the supermarket, and fraudulent practices abound…)   At any rate, your 13 cupcakes will be great to serve your friends if they do come over for the séance.

7. Honor the goddess Freya. Today is truly her day!

The word Friday is derived from Freya, the Norse goddess of love, sex and fertility. She is worshipped on every Friday, but Friday the 13th holds special meaning. Legend tells us the witches of the North would observe their sabbat by gathering in the woods by the light of the moon. On one such occasion Freya herself came down from her sanctuary in the mountaintops and appeared before the group.

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The witches numbered only 12 at the time. Freya joined the circle, making the number 13, after which the witches’ coven — and every properly-formed coven since then — comprised exactly 13. You can make a personal homage to Freya by lighting a pink candle and offering her an apple, the traditional fruit of love.

8. Contact 13 people you have been out of touch with lately.

Wish them a happy Friday the 13.  You could call them, contact them on social media or send an old fashioned Halloween card. By doing this you will send 13 love vibrations into the universe. They will come back to you threefold. Plus you will get back in touch with your long lost buddies, old friends, maybe an old flame? Who knows what will happen…

9. Carve a Jack o’ Lantern!

Pumpkins are a traditional fruit of the fall harvest. A Jack o’ Lantern helps guide spirits from the Otherworld who wish to visit us on Halloween. Carving your Jack o’ Lantern on Friday the 13th will imbue it with the sacred energy of this day.

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Save the pumpkin seeds and bake them on a flat, salted cookie sheet.  Eat exactly 13 seeds each day between now and Halloween. This will serve to remind you of the magical number 13 and increase your spiritual focus as you wait in anticipation of Halloween. Besides that, pumpkin seeds are full of zinc, magnesium and protein. They are great for your immune system and heart health.

10. Make, sew or shop for your Halloween costume!

Your costume will also be imbued with special energy, having been created on this day. When Halloween rolls around you will truly dazzle everyone with your unique style!

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11. Make a crystal grid consisting of 13 stones.

Position the stones however you like. Use your grid for specific wishes and intentions. Meditate on your crystal grid each day from now until Halloween. Even if you do not have special crystals, any type of stone can be used for this – even those you find in the garden or in the street. All rocks hold sacred energy!

12. Read, like and comment on 13 WordPress blogs that you do not normally follow.

By doing this you will raise energy, learn new things, make new friends and create good vibes in cyberspace!

13. Read 13 Edgar Allen Poe stories by candlelight.

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Not only was Poe an exceptional poet and Master of the Macabre, but he actually invented the short story form. Nothing like a good old Murder in the Rue Morgue or Masque of Red Death, read by flickering candlelight, to set a Friday the 13th mood!  And if you are looking for more scary short stories, be sure to check out our anthology The Box Under The Bed , aimed to delight and thrill you!

Most of all, have a safe, fun and fantastic Friday the 13th!

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A Call For Kindness

 

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“As America figures this all out, I’ll be holding doors for strangers, letting people cut in front of me in traffic, saying good morning, being patient with sales clerks, and smiling at pedestrians as often as I am provided the opportunity. Because I will not stand idly by and live in a world where unconditional love is invisible. Join me in showing love to someone who may not necessarily deserve it, but who needs it. Find your own way to swing the pendulum in the direction of love. Be kind to a stranger today and every day.”

I did not write the above statement. (Wish I did!) It was copied from a friend who copied it from someone else, who copied from someone else. You are welcome to pass it on to all your social media or wherever. Copy and add your town at the bottom.  It will be like an anonymous chain letter for peace!  No risk, no spam, just tell the world WE THE PEOPLE, plan to act in kindness.

This message (so far)  comes to you from Michigan City IN, Chattanooga TN, Waltonville Illinois, Bluford IL, Kalkaska MI, Sugar Run PA, Ellabell GA, Parma ID, Nevada City CA, Redwood City CA, Danville CA, Prescott Wa, Sonoma CA, Santa Rosa CA, Petaluma, CA, Santa Rosa, CA, Rio Rancho, NM, Santa Fe, NM, Edgewood, NM, Elmendorf TX, Matthews, NC, Charlotte NC, Denver, NC, Maiden NC Beckley WV, Hope Mills, NC, Fayetteville, NC, Hunlock Creek,PA, Chandler,AZ, Hainesport,NJ.  Mt Laurel,  Munising, Michigan, Chico, CA,  Green Bay, WI, Nashville, TN, Jersey City, NJ, Flanders, NJ, Mt Arlington, NJ, Flemington, NJ, Cliffwood Beach,NJ, Parkesburg, PA, Hampton Bays, NY, Champions Gate FL, Kissimmee, FL. Orlando, FL, Venice, FL, Telluride, CO, Avon, CO, Westminster, CO, Craig, CO , Lockport, IL, Crestwood, IL, Justice, IL, Chicago IL

 

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Autumn Equinox and the Goddess

 

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Today we see an equality of day and night, yet soon the darkness will overtake us.

The earth tilts. Persephone descends to the underworld once again, leaving dead crops and barren fields. This is the time of the dark goddess. Call her Morrigan, Hekate, Hel, Mab, Cerridwen, Lilith.  She rules all things subconscious.  She is neither mother nor maiden.  She is the mighty huntress, the warrior, the crone, the sibyl, the healer, the high priestess.  Her wisdom is deep. She invites us to go  within, explore shadows, face personal darkness as the long nights scare and tempt us.

“Black were her eyes as the berry that grows on the thorn by the wayside,
Black, yet how softly they gleamed beneath the brown shade of her tresses!
Sweet was her breath as the breath of kine that feed in the meadows. When she had passed, it seemed like the ceasing of exquisite music.”

— Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

 

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Autumn’s equinox is the perfect time to begin ritual with the dark goddess.  You may find her in the stillness of the forest, in the fading summer twilight or in the harvest moon.  She is mysterious, unpredictable. She bids, she beckons, but most of all she haunts. This is the season of death, and in all death lies transformation. For those who dare to explore the dark side, magnanimous gifts await. The dark goddess helps us break through fears, anxieties, phobias.

Breathe deep. Take in the essence of autumn — ripe fruits, acorns, crackling fires, candlelight.  Meet the Morrigan on a raven’s wing or journey with Persephone across the River Styx. Energy is transformed in the scarlet  hues of falling leaves as they crumble and return to the earth.  Energy is transformed in the foods we eat at harvest. Our bodies regenerate in the long winter’s sleep. Meditate with the goddess and allow her to help transform negative energy for positive purposes. Our doubts and fears can become confidence and strength.

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Relish the golden days of autumn.

“That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou see’st the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth in the west;
Which by and by black night doth take away,
Death’s second self, that seals up all in rest.”

— William Shakespeare

Have a Blessed Autumn Equinox!

 

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