Santa Rode a Goat?

Santa Rode a Goat?
-By Debbi Decker

Every year, right before Thanksgiving, my father would start the holiday decorating, bringing out his vast collection of Santa figurines. These were collectible ornaments that he would stand on his mantel over the fireplace. The figures were based upon legends about St. Nicholas and Santa Claus from all eras and from all over the world. A few of the figures were rather interesting in that they included some of the more pagan elements of the legends. There were figures with wassail bowls, Santa masks, holly crowns, and assorted animals associated with the legends.

One particular figurine that always fascinated and puzzled me was that of a Santa wearing a crown of holly leaves, holding a wassail bowl, and riding a goat. Yes, a goat. I always enjoyed seeing that one, and would make sure Daddy put it in a prominent place on the mantel so it was visible to all. It resonated with me as a Pagan, because the goat, holly, and wassail bowl are all pre-Christian references to older Pagan legends associated with the Winter Solstice season.

This year, I ran across a post by a fellow Halloween Artist Bazaar member (Chad Savage and his annual Creepmas event), that referenced the word “Joulupukki”. Curious, I googled the word, and what do you know but here lies the meaning behind that figurine of Santa riding a goat.

Joulupukki is a Finnish word which means “Christmas Goat” or “Yule Goat”. While I did not find a great deal of information, it appears that the Yule Goat is connected to Norse mythology and the goat was the animal that pulled Woden’s chariot during the Wild Hunt at the Winter Solstice. There are still areas in Finland where older men will dress up as goats and perform for food leftover from celebrations. These men are called “Nuttipukki”. I have to say that looking at the images in connection with the Nuttipukki, I can see a very close correlation with the images of Krampus that are becoming so popular now.

The Santa my father owned came in a box with an explanation on the back that focused mostly on the old English custom of Wassailing, stating that the figurine was modeled after a sketch done by Robert Seymour, an illustrator for the Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens. Nothing is mentioned about the goat other than it being a beloved English custom (!) of Santa sometimes seen as riding either a goat or a donkey. While I did research the Pickwick Papers, I was not able to find the illustration, however, I did run across it in The Book of Christmas by Thomas Hervey, published in 1836 (the date shown on the base of the figurine).

So, there you have it. Santa sometimes rides a goat, and drinks wassail (mulled cider) while sporting a holly crown. I suspect he is the life of any party he attends.

Debbi Decker is proprietor of Crazed Poppet Creations Art & Assemblage Emporium. Check out her artist page to find links to her shop and blog to read more of her writings. Visit again next month for the telling of hauntings and ghostly tales by Debbi Decker.

Everlastings and Offerings

Everlastings and Offerings
-By Debbi Decker

All Saints Day can be a very busy day in New Orleans’ cemeteries. Peering through the gates, you might see a few families busy among the tombs, polishing marble and brass, and pulling the weeds and the ferns that can root in the tiniest of cracks in the surface. There are not as many families present these days as there would have been back in the 1800s and early 1900s. Time has taken its toll on the tombs, and many of the families have either moved away or died out. Still, those that can will take the time to care for the tombs that belong to their families, and there are cemetery preservation societies that are attempting to halt the destruction and decay. Candles continue to be lit, and the priests still come to bless the graves.

During the 1800s, it was a common practice for vendors to set up outside of the cemeteries around New Orleans on All Saint’s Day to sell fresh flowers to be placed in vases in front of the tombs. Over time, and as people came over to the city from Europe, decorations for the tombs called “immortelles” were introduced to the general public and sold to the families as they entered the cemeteries to clean and decorate the family tombs. The word is of French origin and means “everlasting”. These decorations or offerings would have run the gamut from simple straw flower bouquets to elaborate woven wire wreaths full of beads and china roses. Zinc would have been cut out in the shape of leaves and made into wreaths. Reverse glass paintings of various images and symbols were popular, as were woven hair ornaments. Black roses made out of linen and woven into crosses or other religious shapes were popular. Some of these immortelles were brought over from France, while others were made in New Orleans. Mark Twain commented upon immortelles, stating that “they required no attention… and last like boiler iron”. As advances were made in the silk and plastic flower industries, placing elaborate immortelles on the graves and crypts went by the wayside. The silk and plastic flowers cost less, and families could afford to change out the decorations as often as they wished. There is still evidence that the practice continues in some areas, however, it appears more as a personal afterthought or an offering rather than the actual act of leaving an immortelle as it would have been perceived back in the day.

A recent stroll through Lafayette Cemetery No. 1 in the Garden District revealed that the leaving of offerings is still alive and well in New Orleans. Especially at the resting places of people who may have been active in the practice of the Voodoo religion. It also appears that certain crypts have been turned into shrines, as is the case of the tomb of the Society for the Relief of Destitute Orphan Boys (see picture). I have no idea why this particular crypt has now become a shrine and this has only happened in the past two years. When I last visited the cemetery in 2013, there were no offerings on this tomb.

You never know what you will find. During my visit I discovered a hand painted canvas depicting a Mardi Gras mask. Many tombs had beads draped over them, some had metal or glass vases full of actual flowers withered from the heat and passage of time. I noticed a few small toys and tiny cherub statues, as well as bouquets of silk flowers that seemed to fare better in the heat than their living counterparts. Cigarettes, lipsticks, vials of oils and perfumes, cigars and chewing tobacco decorated the crypt’s ledges, as well as small pouches with indeterminate contents to be wondered about or guessed at.

It is not clear from the offerings left what exactly is going on, but as with the Voodoo offerings at the various local mambos’ and houngans’ tombs, I suspect that the petitioners are leaving little gifts behind as thanks for the spirits’ help with their requests. Why these particular tombs are chosen may never be known. And, in a sense, these kinds of offerings become immortelles or everlastings because these offerings will remain. It is acceptable to look over the leavings, and even take a picture or two. You are encouraged to add your prayers and leave an offering of your own. Never ever disturb or take the offerings at these tombs. To do so would anger the spirits and could bring great spiritual harm.

Photographs “Immortelles”, “Blessed the Child”,”Society for the Relief of Destitute Orphan Boys”, “Society for the Relief of Destitute Orphan Boys close up”, “Offerings” and “Mask Gift” provided by Crazed Poppet Creations and are copyrighted images. To contact Debbi Decker for purchase of these prints visit her website.

Debbi Decker is proprietor of Crazed Poppet Creations Art & Assemblage Emporium. Check out her artist page to find links to her shop and blog to read more of her writings. Visit again next month for the telling of hauntings and ghostly tales by Debbi Decker.


-By Debbi Decker

Born in October of 1925, amidst the rubble and wreckage in a collapsed railway tunnel, he rose up and stumbled out of the smoke, a wraith-like silhouette against the fire lit sky. Those who hid in terror reported a visage of jagged and blood dripping teeth, skin shredded and hanging from the bones. A few hardier souls tracked the creature as he stumbled, moaning and keening, along the river and on to the cemetery where he disappeared into the entrance of a large Gothic tomb. Attempts to open the door of the tomb came to naught and the hysterical requests to the cemetery officials to open the tomb were denied. The gossip in the bars and homes in the days to come claimed the creature was a vampire. “How else?” they whispered. “How else can you explain the bloody teeth, never mind the entry into a sealed tomb?” The owners of the tomb did not stand idly by. “I heard they moved the family bones” a neighbor told another neighbor. “Had to have done it by day” the neighbor answered. Both nodded. Everyone knows that vampires sleep by day. No one questioned why the family did not destroy the vampire while it slept. With a stake to the heart. Isn’t that the usual way one dispatches a vampire?

Years passed and the legend passed along with them. Reports of strange noises from inside the tomb. Orbs and strange mists emanating from the doorway. Tales of Satanic activity and markings around the tomb. It is now 2015, and people still come from far and wide to view the Tomb of the Richmond Vampire.

As with all legends, there is some truth to this particular tale. A railway tunnel did collapse on the night of October 2, 1925 on Church Hill in Richmond, Virginia. A young man, Benjamin F. Mosby, managed to escape the wreckage bearing injuries much like the oft-described vampire in the tale. He was admitted to Grace Hospital, where he later died of his injuries. Not much is told of where Mr. Mosby was found or why he supposedly chose that particular tomb. William Wortham Poole was an upstanding citizen, a secretary/clerk who died at the venerable age of 80, and subsequently buried in the family tomb in 1922. Perhaps Mr. Mosby was trying to reach the river which travels along the cemetery borders. Perhaps he was only able to get as far as W.W. Poole’s tomb where he collapsed inside the dark entryway, thereby spawning the rumors that he disappeared into the tomb. To this day, there are still reports of strange noises and paranormal activity. Since we know Benjamin Mosby died at Grace Hospital, who (or what) prowls the shadows of the Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia? I am personally of the opinion that we do not have a vampire here, but the rather pissed-off ghost of William Poole, wandering and cursing the tale that led to his, and his family members, removal from the august family tomb to parts unknown.

Photographs “Tomb Of The Richmond Vampire” and “Tomb Of The Richmond Vampire-original” provided by Crazed Poppet Creations and are copyrighted images. To contact Debbi Decker for purchase of these prints visit her website.

Debbi Decker is proprietor of Crazed Poppet Creations Art & Assemblage Emporium. Check out her artist page to find links to her shop and blog to read more of her writings. Visit again next month for the telling of hauntings and ghostly tales by Debbi Decker.

Featured Artist Interview October 2015: Crazed Poppet Creations

To find where Deborah Decker sells her wares visit her website Crazed Poppet Creations. 

Interview with Deborah Decker of Crazed Poppet Creations:

At what age did you discover your love of Halloween?

I do not remember ever not loving Halloween. It was still a big deal when I was a kid during the late 1950s to mid-1960s. The churches, communities and schools all still celebrated. People would make their own costumes and decorations, and some would even make goodies to give to the trick or treaters. It was a more innocent era, and I sure miss the handmade aspect of it all.

What is your fondest Halloween memory?

It was Halloween day, and my school hosted an after-school Halloween party. I was 5 years old and in kindergarten, and I dressed up as a Gypsy. Somehow, I missed the school bus home and then decided I could walk home by myself. I recall walking in a field towards home as the sun was setting. It was truly one of the creepiest feelings I have ever had. Something about the shadows and the way the light was playing out in the sunset. I still get the shivers when I think of it, and crazily enough I would have to say this is my fondest memory because it was a true Halloween experience!

How do you celebrate Halloween?

These days after I host the trick or treating on Halloween evening with the grandchildren, I light candles and think of my ancestors, look over the past year and think about goals and things I want to achieve in the future. I usually try to stay up until after midnight but as I get older that gets harder. Halloween is when I celebrate the New Year and it is a very special day for me. My family even calls me on that day to wish me a Happy New Year!

When did you start creating in your medium and what training have you had?

I do not have a specific medium and am mostly self-taught in whatever I do. I have been creating gothic and Halloween art since at least grade school. It has always been an interest of mine.

What was the inspiration to create what you create and when did you know you wanted to create Halloween?

I get inspiration from all kinds of places, from stories, poetry, and history. I prefer the old style Halloween items that were popular from around the Victorian era to the early 1950s.

When did I know that I wanted to create Halloween? That’s a tough question. It seems like I have been creating Halloween since I started school. It’s not like I woke up one day and decided that Halloween was what I liked creating. There are people who say that Halloween is a lifestyle, and in many respects I do think that is true. Because I can’t simply take Halloween and set it outside of me as a stand-alone subject. It is just too much a part of me.

I have to give kudos to a fellow HAB team member, Twilight Faerie, who saw some of my works, pushed me to create more, and urged me to sell some of what I create. In the past, I used to see the different Halloween artist groups and wish that I could be a part of that kind of community. You can imagine how very exciting it was to become a member of Halloween Artist Bazaar!

Please DO Feed the Ghosts

Please DO Feed the Ghosts
-By Debbi Decker

We are in the midst of a pretty dire season. We’ve only just made it past the dog days of summer and are thinking thoughts of fall, cooler weather, football, and our favorite of all holidays, Halloween. Don’t get too ahead yourself though. Right now you better be feeding the ghosts.

We are smack dab in the middle of a period that is recognized by the Buddhist tradition as the “Hungry Ghost Month”. Based upon the lunar calendar, this period usually starts in July. However, this year (2015) it started on August 14 and will end September 12.

Hungry Ghosts are believed to be the souls of the evil dead that reside in Hell, condemned, due to the sins they committed, to suffer eternity feeling hunger. Some souls will be hungry for wealth, some revenge, and some simply for food. Once a year, during the seventh lunar month, the gates of Hell are opened and these souls are released to roam the earth.

So, you are probably thinking that you have already missed half of the month and are saying “so what?” It is never too late to get on the right side of these spirits. Just as you ward your homes against the usual bad actors, you need to up the stakes during Hungry Ghost Month. Here are a few tips and things you can do to be sure that everyone is happy, both corporeal and incorporeal:

Burn fake money. Called “Hell Notes” or Joss paper. Do this in front of your home, your business, or anywhere else you want to protect. Never ever pick up any money you find on the ground during this period. That money belongs to the ghosts. Give money freely to charities and to the living during this time period.

Leave offerings of food and drink outside your home (be nice and use good plates and glassware). This should be left far enough away from your normal pathways so that you do not encounter any of the local wildlife that may investigate that tasty chicken leg. Never ever chase away any animals or bugs that might be near or on the offerings, and never touch the offerings after you have left them out for the spirits until the Hungry Ghost Month is over. Then you may clear away whatever is left. Do this respectfully, perhaps putting the remains in a compost pile. You may either destroy or ritually cleanse the plates and glassware and put all away for next year. I personally think it would be nice to have a small selection of pretty dinnerware and glassware to be used solely for rituals such as these.

Burn incense inside and outside the home. Rock salt sprinkled at doorways and on windowsills will keep the spirits from entering. Try not to conduct new important business or start new projects during this time. However, if a project or business venture was started before August 14, you can continue to move forward.

Never ever kill an unusual insect or bug inside your home during this time (roaches being the exception). It is believed that those unusual creepy crawlies could be reincarnations of your ancestors and they are simply stopping by to check things out and to say hello.

No whistling, going out alone at night, or hanging laundry out to dry. Any of these activities will bring attention to you and the spirits may decide they like you and move in. If that happens, you might have to have your home cleansed or exorcised by a professional. Wear a protective amulet during this time and have it cleansed when the period is over.

Following these tips will leave you unscathed, and the Hungry Ghosts will, with toothpicks in their mouths and money in their pockets, travel back to lounge on their couches in Hell to bet on a little after dinner football.

Sounds like Thanksgiving to me.

Debbi Decker is proprietor of Crazed Poppet Creations Art & Assemblage Emporium. Check out her artist page to find links to her shop and blog to read more of her writings. Visit again next month for the telling of hauntings and ghostly tales by Debbi Decker.


-By Debbi Decker

There sits on a shelf a doll with no face. All in red, round head and star shaped body. No gender implied. It is called a Sarubobo, and it comes from Takayama in the Gifa prefecture, located in the mountainous Hida region of Japan. Legend says grandmothers of long ago would have made this doll for a grandchild in various colors, with red bringing luck in marriage, fertility, and childbirth. That fact that the doll is faceless also allowed the possessor to project whatever image they wished upon the doll, such as the face of a mother, father, or even themselves.

Here in the United States, the Amish traditionally created faceless dolls based upon Christian biblical teachings that forbid people from creating and/or worshipping graven images or idols. A faceless doll would not allow the children to see it as a human likeness, and therefore they avoided the sin of loving or “worshipping” an idol. The faceless dolls of the Amish also kept a child from identifying with a beautifully-rendered doll and so guarded against the sin of vanity. In my research I found Islam also forbids the depiction of facial features of any kind, including those on dolls.

Still another example of a faceless doll would be the corn husk dolls of the Iroquois, a Native American confederacy. Traditionally, the women would plant and tend the corn, which would then be harvested and the husks saved to make rugs, masks, medicine bundles, and dolls that had no faces. Their reasons for the lack of faces runs the gamut from religious and medicinal purposes to teaching life lessons to the children. There is a creation story told by the Iroquois that tells us that the first corn husk doll had a beautiful face. She was put on the earth to take care of and to guide the children. When she caught her reflection in the waters of a stream, she became so enamored of her beauty that she continually stared into the stream and thus neglected the children. The Creator then took away her face to punish her for her vanity.

Sarubobos are made in other colors for love, health, money, and removal of bad luck. Corn husk dolls have been found in Iroquois medicine bags, and it was also believed by the People that to give a doll a face was to give it a soul. Waldorf dolls, another faceless variety, are used as educational tools for invoking imagination and fantasy. A Voodoo doll in times past would have been made without a face at the start, and only given one as the spell work upon the doll progressed, and only if necessary to increase the spell’s success. As an aside, Voodoo dolls actually came from Europe and were not an original part of the religious practices brought over with from Africa. The European poppet was a doll used in fertility rites and other magical working, and some were buried in the crop fields to insure a good harvest.

Dolls trigger all kinds of emotions and feelings. Many do not like them and avoid them, while others collect them and fill their homes with them. Then there are those like me who find the faceless dolls intriguing and useful. The thread that ties together the aforementioned dolls is the use of imagination to project images and feelings upon the dolls. Which is an important part of all magical workings. The components and tools that we use in our spiritual practices are, as a rule, imbued with our thoughts and feelings, and certain outcomes are projected upon the components as a whole. I will, however, rarely buy any kind of used doll at a flea market, collectible or antique store, as I have no way of knowing who had that doll before me and what that doll meant to any previous owner.

My Sarubobo was given to me by someone who knew I would be appreciative of the magical purpose for the doll, but who clearly did not realize the correlation of the color. At the time of the gift, I had already married, birthed children, and divorced, and I was well beyond the desire to ever remarry or have any more children! Therefore, the doll sits on the shelf, is rarely handled, and, in my mind, remains faceless. After all, I am keenly aware that to handle dolls is to imbue qualities upon them and to awaken the magic they hold. And I am afraid that should an aspiring husband show up on my doorstep I will be forced to bring out that other faceless doll of ill repute and begin a working with some pins.

Photographs “Sarubobo”, “Faceless Goddess”, “Faceless Poppet and “Voodoo Doll” provided by Crazed Poppet Creations and are copyrighted images. To contact Debbi Decker for purchase of these prints visit her website.

Debbi Decker is proprietor of Crazed Poppet Creations Art & Assemblage Emporium. Check out her artist page to find links to her shop and blog to read more of her writings. Visit again next month for the telling of hauntings and ghostly tales by Debbi Decker.

The Watchers in the Woods

The Watchers in the Woods
-By Debbi Decker

It was not always like this. She has traveled through many woods in many countries. They always held a sense of magic for her, a sacred place to wander and to worship. Not these woods. The forests behind her new home hides something she cannot identify.
It isn’t that the forest is a fear-filled place. Rather it is the feelings it gives her as she wanders amongst the trees.

Tall trees they are too, with a high canopy that lets in just enough light to allow her to see her surroundings. The light never brings detail to anything to give her a real sense of safety. Covered in leaves and moss, the forest floor offers no bracken or shrubbery to hide within. So, why is there this sense of being watched, being weighed, and always being found wanting?

The paths through the woods are barely there, trodden only by beasts of habit. She is never sure what beasts these are. There are watchers in the woods. The eyes she feels on her sometimes feel like the eyes of something “other”, something elemental and only found deep within the forest. Babbling brooks and moss filled nooks take on a different meaning here. It is a dare to drink from the streams, knowing the stories told of enchantments placed upon the flowing waters and the fates that befell those who took those dares and drank.

Blame it on all those fairy tales she thinks. Red Riding Hood’s wolf and that gingerbread cottage in the depths of the woods. Funny how both of those tales speak of cannibalism. Death by a supposedly trusted or respected person. Both stories feature women who are not as they seem. Makes one wonder if the Gods of the woods require such sacrifices. Surely not, she thinks, but one never really knows when it comes to the Gods and their needs.

How is it that she did not sense this when she first viewed the house and the land? Had she known, she would have continued her search for a new home. She must have been dazzled by whatever lives in the shadows there. It must want something from her.

She feels compelled at times to pass through the forest as though some force or lost soul calls to her, luring her into the deepest, shadiest, darkest parts. The forest uncovers her darker side and throws it mirror-like back in her face, forcing her to embrace those secret bits of her soul. The bits that recognize the demons hidden within those fairy tales that tell of old women wearing wolf’s clothing and homes with deep ovens. Whose big eyes see everything you do and whose appetites can devour you right down to the tiniest crumb of your very essence. These woods feed on those bits.

No, this particular forest is not her friend, no matter how Pagan her soul and no matter that the Gods she worships revere this place. This forest is not for her and she passes through it only when called and only as a last resort. She wants to keep her soul. This is not her place. The Gods will understand after all. She hopes. Because no none ever really knows when it comes to the Gods and their needs.

Photographs “Watching”, “Green Man”, “Forest Moon and “Portal” provided by Crazed Poppet Creations and are copyrighted images. To contact Debbi Decker for purchase of these prints visit her website.

Debbi Decker is proprietor of Crazed Poppet Creations Art & Assemblage Emporium. Check out her artist page to find links to her shop and blog to read more of her writings. Visit again next month for the telling of hauntings and ghostly tales by Debbi Decker.


-By Debbi Decker

It was June 23, 1860, St. John’s Eve, and midsummer was upon them. They could hear the drums in the distance. A secret conversation, a statement and response, the meaning of which was known only to the anointed ones. People came to the Bayou St. John, whether by foot or by train to the end of the line. It was risky to attend, though people from all walks of life would at least attempt to come. Many who came to the dance would attend in anonymity, hoping to be ridden by the spirits. Some would be baptized in the water, all would share in the sanctity of the event. The smoke of the bonfires would obscure and maintain the secrecy. If the fog rolled in off the bayou, all the better. The dark of the night, the songs, the offerings, and the dancing were all for the benefit of the Loas. If the participants were lucky, their Queen, Marie Laveau, would attend and dance amongst them, perform the rituals, and preside over the feasts.

St. John’s Eve is a Christian celebration that roughly correlates with the summer solstice in the Northern Hemisphere. Celebrated on evening of June 23, it precedes the Saint’s day, which celebrates the birth of John the Baptist on June 24, a Catholic Holy Day. The roots of this celebration date back to the early pagan summer solstice traditions. Bonfires were lit to drive away the witches that pass by during the night, and sometimes effigies were burned. Young men and women would jump the fires holding hands. Music and feasting and divination were part of the festivities. Ashes from the fires would be placed in the corners of the fields where the crops were growing to ensure further growth and plenty. Magical herbs such as St. John’s Wort were gathered, though I have yet to discover what the name of that particular herb would have been in those times (since John the Baptist is a Catholic saint). The celebration of St. John’s Eve continues today. One has only to Google the holiday to see the various ways many countries did, and still do, observe the holiday.

The brief description in the first paragraph concerns the St. John’s Eve celebration the way it would have been observed by the slaves and free people of color who held Voodoo beliefs and lived in New Orleans and surrounding areas during the 1800s. The practice of the Voodoo religion was outlawed. Voodoo, an Afro-centric religion, has always been a somewhat malleable religion. The practices were as varied as the tribes whose members were uprooted and brought to New Orleans from the different regions of Africa, and later on, from Haiti. Because the religion itself was outlawed, believers used the Catholic saints, rituals, and observances as a “cover” for their religion. Many Saints had characteristics of the Loas (the deities and ancestors) they revered, so those Saints were borrowed to stand in for the Loas. Using Catholic practices, the believers could continue to honor their ancestors, beseech the Loas for their help, and continue to use their varied knowledge of the plants, animals, and elements in their day to day life.

Voodoo in New Orleans is still practiced, and St. John’s Eve continues to be observed. Over time, Voodoo has lost much of its secrecy and has survived the horrors attributed to it by Hollywood’s depictions in the movies so many of us have watched. Baptism and head washing are two of the important elements of the observance. This ritual cleansing is to bring about renewal, good fortune, and prosperity to the person participating.

If you are interested in observing St. John’s Eve in your home, you can take a simple ritual bath using Florida water, white candles and white flowers. Play music that soothes you. Light the candles and pour of few drops of the Florida water (I can actually buy this in my local drugstore!) in your bathwater. You can either float the flowers in the water or you can set them around the bath. You may either pour the bathwater over you 7 times or you may rest in the water for a short period of time. Ask the deities to aid you in whatever path you wish to follow. Once you are done, dress all in white and go to bed for rest and rejuvenation, and hopefully, to receive the messages the ancestors have for you.

Another interesting use of water on this day is to create a protection bottle to drive away bill collectors, enemies, and the law. Assuming my readers need this. Go to a river or other body of water on St. John’s Eve and fill a small clean glass bottle with the water. I have read some versions of this spell that instructs the reader to recite the “Lord’s Prayer” while gathering the water. Personally, I don’t think that particular prayer is necessary; you could recite a prayer concerning protections that has a personal meaning to you. Seal the bottle and place it near your front door with the top of the bottle pointing towards the door. Ask the deities to aid you in keeping the undesirables away from you and your home. This bottle should never be emptied, though if contents evaporate over time you can refill it.

The bottle spell is an old spell, handed down through many generations of Voodoo practitioners. Notice the references to bill collectors, enemies, and the law. Think about how the slaves and free people of color would have lived in New Orleans during the 1800s. They were surrounded by those who would cause them harm, and the officers of law could at any time could arrest them for anything at all. Those who were free lived hand to mouth in many cases and were always on the lookout for the bill collectors that could take their money and livelihoods from them. Lastly, the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer, which is a Catholic prayer, is evidence of the use of the Catholic religion to pray to their Loas for protection and help.

So, what the heck does “danse Calinda” (the title of this article) mean? The original Calinda was a martial arts practice of stick fighting which came to the Caribbean islands in the 1700s out of the country of Kongo in Africa. Because stick fighting was not allowed by the planters of the islands, the movements were appropriated and adapted by the slaves into a type of dance. As many of the planters and their slaves came to New Orleans, the Calinda came with them, and the dance was a feature of many of the Voodoo gatherings.

St. John’s Eve is coming soon. Celebrate this day, dance like “nobody is watching”, and take that ritual bath. By the way, that “nobody is watching” part? That ain’t true. The deities and ancestors are always watching. Dance for them. Dance for you.

Photographs “Voodoo Window”, “Voodoo Shrine” and “Saint” provided by twistedpixelstudio and are copyrighted images. To contact Debbi Decker for purchase of these prints visit her website.

Debbi Decker is proprietor of Crazed Poppet Creations Art & Assemblage Emporium. Check out her artist page to find links to her shop and blog to read more of her writings. Visit again next month for the telling of hauntings and ghostly tales by Debbi Decker.

Hazmat Suit Not Required

Hazmat Suit Not Required
-By Debbi Decker

It all started out innocently. While writing last month’s article about creating a moon garden, I ran across references to this or that plant being poisonous. I read fascinating articles referencing some very famous supposed poisoners. Lucretia Borgia, Agrippina (Nero’s mother), and the goddess, Circe, to name but three. The lovely scented Oleander, which grows almost like a weed in parts of the south, is a deadly plant and one featured in a legend told about the Magnolia Plantation in Louisiana. Ricin, which comes from the castor plant, is one of the most lethal poisons out there and is used to this day. We all love Mistletoe and Poinsettias at Christmas. Intrigued, I decided to do a little research about poisonous plants in our garden. And then I took a look around my own yard and plant choices.

Rhododendron. Check.
Hydrangea. Check.
Hellebores. Check.
Stargazer Lily. Check.

OMG! I’m going to die. I feel itchy, nauseous, dizzy…. Call the doctor! Order the coffin!

Well, that was my first reaction. But, seriously, we can take a step back and look at this realistically. There are numerous popular toxic plants throughout the world that adorn gardens everywhere and yet we see no news reports of masses of people dying after spending time in their gardens. Some people even cultivate these plants on purpose. Alnwick Garden in Northumberland, England comes to mind. There was the famous Medici garden in Padua Italy, and another garden lies behind Blarney Castle in Ireland. In some cases, these were planted specifically as a collection of poisonous plants. In other cases, the gardens gained reputations as being poison gardens simply by association with the legend and lore of the particular gardener or owner. And as a rule, those of us who plant gardens for medicinal uses are always going to have a plant or two that doubles for both healing and harm. Stories abound regarding the Witch or Sorceress who used a common plant found in her garden for healing or for nefarious means.

It was a huge surprise to me, however, just how many plants I own that are truly poisonous, not only to humans but to the various wildlife around me. For instance, I adore Hydrangeas and have one that was given to me many years ago and which has survived several re-plantings as I dug it up to take with me as I moved. The plants contains cyanide. In Japan, one species of the plant is used for tea! Rhododendron, a very popular landscaping bush, is highly toxic to horses and there have been historical reports of people becoming ill after eating honey from bees feeding on the pollen of the flowers. My neighborhood contains hundreds of these bushes. Yikes!!

Another favorite is Hellebore or Lenten Rose. I have masses of these around my home and love them because they bloom in late winter and bring a smile because when they do bloom I know spring is just around the corner. But prolonged skin contact with the seeds can cause rashes and the roots can cause vomiting and diarrhea. In the past, parents would use this plant to help treat worms in their children. Which, according to some of my research, may well have caused death in some of those children. One as to wonder if all of those deaths were innocent.

And what about that gorgeous Star Gazer Lily that I have nursed and coddled for years for its exquisite scent and bloom? Yep. Also referred to as “death lily”. Many species of lilies are toxic, such as Lily of the Valley, Rain Lily, and more.

So, what’s a gardener to do? There are even more plants such as Monkshood, Foxglove, and even the lovely Daisy, that can be harmful. Do we don hazmat suits, gloves, and full-face masks whenever we want to do a bit of weeding?

Common sense prevails. While the feel of dirt on bare hands can be therapeutic to some, gardening gloves were probably invented for a reason other than to protect milady’s delicate hands. If you have children or pets, reading up on and identifying the plants in your area is of the utmost importance. I recall our local park gardeners planting the most beautiful lilies I had ever seen and I was anxiously waiting for seeds to form. I had no idea what type of lily it was (though I later found out) but it smelled heavenly and I wanted one. It did not take long for all of those plants to disappear. It seems someone more knowledgeable reported to the authorities that this particular lily was highly poisonous to both humans and animals and therefore not suitable for a public park. What was that lily? Trumpet Lily. I still covet them although I am not in a suitable planting zone to grow them. Research is key. We should all know what is around us to protect ourselves, family and pets. Even those who own no pets and live alone should be aware, because little children are known to wander and the local wildlife can suffer from introduction of a plant not commonly found in their feeding locations.

Common sense also tells us that if we do have these kinds of plants in our gardens, they need to be located far away from any plants or herbs that we harvest for consumption. Imagine the embarrassment (never mind the frownie face the Judge will have) over the passing of Auntie Ludmilla after consumption of that meal you garnished with herbs from your very own garden. We know you did not intend this result. But still….

Debbi Decker is proprietor of Crazed Poppet Creations Art & Assemblage Emporium. Check out her artist page to find links to her shop and blog to read more of her writings. Visit again next month for the telling of hauntings and ghostly tales by Debbi Decker.