Full Worm Moon

Full Worm Moon
-By Angelique Duncan

March 12th will be the Full Worm Moon. This will be the last full moon of Winter for 2017. The March full moon is known by many names, but is most commonly known as the Full Worm Moon. This full moon will occur a week before the Spring Equinox and will be visible from March 11th-the 13th and the moon peaks on March 12th. Although not a “super moon” this years moon it is thought will be particularly bright given it’s timing and placement in the night sky.

The March Full Moon became known as the Worm Moon because it coincides with the coming of the signs of Spring. As the ground begins to warm worms began to appear under shimmering light. Robins on their migration back north descend to feast upon the squirmy delicacies as a meal in the early morning. Many in North America believe that the coming of the robins signals the official end of winter. To the Native Americans it is the worms who are the true first signal that the ground has thawed and it is time for planting.

A full moon is not the only phenomenon in which worms glow. There are naturally occurring glowworms that are found in woodland caves all over the globe and a rare species found in wetlands in the North American south particularly in the Appalachian Mountains and the Cumberland Plateau. They are also one of few species that exist in the Arctic Circle. Caves in New Zealand and Australia are touted as quite the visual spectacle of hundreds of glowing worms hanging from cave walls.

The female of the species is usually the worm that actually has the glowing ability. They glow from bioluminescence luciferin and the reaction of fluorescent proteins reacting to minerals and oxygen that is emitted from the tail end of their bodies. The most common glow is that of a yellow or green, however those found in North America glow a stunning bright blue.

It is believed that glowworms have magical powers. Before electric light and battery operated light sources were collected and put along pathways to create light and safety for foot travel at night. The worms would also be placed in lanterns for their magical light. Sometimes the worms were distilled in water to create glowing liquid for illumination. Their magical powers were also sought after for medicinal purposes.

Folklore states that if one sees a glowworm on their path while traveling they will have good fortune. However one must never step on a glowworm, otherwise the joy and laughter will be removed from their household. It is also thought that if a glowworm crosses the threshold of a house the head of that household will perish.

Sadly, varieties of glowworms are increasingly becoming extinct and are being added to many nations list of eminently endangered species. Most glowworms are falling victim to urban expansion and invasions of humans in their natural habitats. Glowworms are sensitive to noise and particularly light pollution. They also are declining in their populations due to chemical and insecticidal pollutions that have been introduced into water sources. Some species populations are fading due to warming of their environments and extreme weather changes that are causing their natural mating and birth cycles to become off kilter.

This full Worm Moon get out and enjoy the first rights of Spring. While you are looking up to the skies to witness the full bright lunar occurrence, remember to look down and see if you can spy an emerging worm. Be grateful that Spring and warmer weather is on the way bringing with it birds and flowers. If you should see a glowworm count yourself lucky as you will be bestowed with magical good fortune.

Painting “Full Worm Moon” copyright Angelique Duncan -Twilight Faerie

Angelique Duncan is proprietor of Twilight Faerie Nostalgic and Capricious Objects. Check out her artist page to find links to her shops and vintage inspired traditional holiday art. Visit again next month for more traditions and folklore.

Featured Artist Interview March 2017: Twilight Faerie

To find where Twilight Faerie sells her wares visit her on her artist page on HAB. 

Interview with Angelique Duncan of Twilight Faerie:

Which pieces of your artwork are you most proud of, currently for sale or sold? Share an image of it if you have one.

I am most proud of “The Great Pumpkin of Sincerity”. It is a 16×20 acrylic painting on Bristol board. This was the first piece I painted with the intent to put out in the public sphere to sell. I have been painting my entire life, however as a lot of artist do, had trepidation about selling my own paintings. I entered the piece in the Faces of the Great Pumpkin Art Contest 2013 held by Cult of the Great Pumpkin, figuring the best way to get over my hesitations to put my paintings up for public scrutiny was to put one in a contest judged by the public. It didn’t win, but I am grateful I entered the piece and still very proud of it. Since painting the Great Pumpkin of Sincerity I have continued to paint and have several paintings and prints for sale along side my vintage Halloween and floral work. I am never happier than when I am painting.

Name an artist(s) whose work you admire and what influence have they had on your art?

The influences on my art come from old storybook illustrations and the (now) vintage greeting cards I used to receive as a child. I love the imagery of animals and Halloween creatures living a parallel world to ours. The artists whose work I admire the most are Arthur Rackham and Beatrix Potter. In my opinion, they are the masters of children’s art, color and mood. I could only hope to be able to capture a tiny sliver of the imagery they have created.

The greatest influence on my work is the illustrators of Halloween greeting cards from the 1970’s. Unfortunately, given the temporary nature of art used for greeting cards as mere ephemera, many of these artists never received notoriety in the art world and their names are obscure. The imagery of those cards has always stayed with me; jovial scarecrows, prissy sweet faced black cats, wide-eyed ghost and grinning Jack o Lanterns. It was an era of Halloween imagery that was friendly, whimsical yet still had a tinge of spooky and I try to emulate that style in my Halloween art.

In the realm of modern Halloween art, I am tremendously grateful to Heather Gleason of My Eclectic Mind for having discovered Twilight Faerie way back in the day and encouraging me to sell online and to challenge myself to always strive to do greater things. Her work is magnificent and inspiring.

What would you consider the highest honor or greatest goal you would like to achieve with your art?

The greatest goal for my art is for some one I have never met to be so compelled to want to hang or sit my work in their home. If a person looks upon one of my pieces and feels as fondly and attached about my art as I do the art and decorations in my own collection, then I have contributed to some ones happiness and to me that is the highest honor one can achieve with art.

What Halloween costume that you got to wear in childhood was your favorite and has the fondest memory for you?

The fondest memories from childhood of a Halloween costume are of a witch’s hat I had when I was about five years old. To me it was the most beautiful magic hat there ever could have been. It came from TG&Y, a discount store that has long since closed its doors. The hat was made from a glossy black-coated cardstock with a ruffle on the edge that was made from black crepe paper with a silver foil trim. The hat had a large moon with a cat arching it’s back surrounded by stars painted on with shiny silver glitter. I loved that hat. I wore it proudly several Halloween nights years in a row, until one Halloween it was drizzly and damp and miserable for trick or treating. I wore my hat, not realizing paper and rain were not a good mix. The hat was destroyed.

Years later, when I was in my early 30’s, I found the exact same hat in a lot of vintage Halloween items at five and dime store in the Village in West University Place in Houston. (another cool store that has closed forever). At the time the original hat I had as a child was maybe $3.00 at most, I paid $25.00 for the new one but it was money well spent to have that hat again. It is now a part of my Halloween decorations that are displayed each year…and yes I have been known to wear the hat around the house gleefully as I decorate!

What is your favorite Halloween icon? Why do you identify with its imagery?

My favorite Halloween icon is the Jack o lantern. The Jack o lantern is the quintessential ambassador and embodiment of all things Halloween. I like to believe that every time a pumpkin is carved into a Jack o lantern and a lit candle is place inside its cavern, that pumpkin has fulfilled its Halloween destiny. Each grimacing, grinning silly or scared faced pumpkin lit by candlelight is keeping the spirit of Halloween alive through the ages.

If money and wherewithal were not an issue, what would be your dream way to spend Halloween?

I have had some very happy Halloweens in my lifetime. I have loved them all whether it was trick or treating as a child or throwing a huge Halloween bash in adulthood or just handing out candy to kids.

If money were no object my dream of the perfect Halloween would be to throw a huge Halloween extravaganza of a party surrounded by folks who share the same enthusiasm and reverence for the holiday. Everyone would have extravagant costumes and every corner would be decorated in orange and black and Halloween bric-a- brac. There would be a decadent Autumn feast with overflowing bowls of baked sweets and candy for desert and never ending pumpkin ales and honey mead. We would have a carved pumpkin contest, silly parlor games and fortune telling. While this party was happening there would be a constant stream of raucous kids Trick or Treating at the door. Outside there would be a fire pit where folks could sit around and tell ghost stories under full moonlight. In the woods would be a decorated haunted trail for folks to meander through with lanterns. To finish the celebration there would be a costumed Halloween parade through the street with all the neighborhood children. That would be a Halloween night for the ages!

Gargoyles and The Grotesque

Gargoyles and The Grotesque
-By Angelique Duncan

Have you ever been walking in an urban area at night and thought you saw something move in the shadows or felt that some one or something was following you? When you look, nothing was there. Or was some one there after all. There is the possibility that feeling of being watched was a Gargoyle or perhaps a Grotesque that indeed was watching you.

For centuries they have loomed above us on the tops of buildings ever watchful and present. They can take the form of animals and winged things, monsters and demons and even sometimes something human. To some they are frightening and to others comforting.

The original purposes of Gargoyles were to act as a waterspout to direct rainwaters from the roofs of buildings. Some appear with long necks with their mouth agape to release water; others appear intertwined in the architecture or buildings. The name Gargoyle became associated with all creatures found in the design of buildings or statues that were made of stone. The word Gargoyle literally translates to gullet or “throat” thus how the rainspout monsters arrived at their name. Ornamentals and stone statues that depicted winged creatures or animals were referred to as Grotesques. Eventually the term Gargoyle was used for all stonework depicting creatures.

Gargoyles originally took the shape of animals and appeared in ancient Egypt and in Greek and Roman architecture. These animal shapes were used to honor the ferocity of the creatures, to show strength of an empire and they acted as beloved protectors to the buildings. The ancient Greeks believed that the stone animals purified water that came from the heavens and protected their buildings from misfortune.

Many European Gargoyles took on the shape of long necked dragons. This practice came from a French legend of a monstrous dragon that was slain. The legend states that the dragon Gargouille was killed and captured and brought back to the village. Once there its body was set ablaze. However the head and neck would not burn as it was acclimated to high temperatures given it’s fire breathing properties. The remains were mounted to the church as a warning to other dragons and to ward off evil spirits.

In Europe as the Catholic Church grew dragons were replaced by anthropomorphized animal human figures to emulate Pagan imagery in an effort to convert Pagans to Christianity. The imagery was to make the Pagans more comfortable with Catholicism and show that only the Church could offer protection from evil.

As the Church became heavier handed the Gargoyles began to take on more frightening motifs depicted as demons and monsters. Their purpose was to remind sinners that only through the Church could one find salvation. The Gargoyles loomed above protecting the churches from evil and acting as a visual reminder to all of the horrors of hell that awaited those who sinned.

Gargoyles or Grotesques were erected in graveyards and gardens to protect against spirits and as a constant reminder to sinners. It became common practice to place a Gargoyle spout on ones personal home or garden. Some of these personal Gargoyles were to emulate the protections offered by the Church, however some were used to preserve Pagan imagery and themes. Many stone workers would carve the faces of deceased relatives or friends into the Gargoyles to honor them.

As time moved on and the Church had established it’s power the need for the horrific imagery of Gargoyles shifted. People began to feel that were too evil looking and the use of demonic imagery on the church was inappropriate. Many of the original Gargoyles were removed and replaced by decorative animal imagery. The custom of Grotesques in personal gardens followed suit, and the use of stone lions replaced Gargoyles as protectors. This eventually gave way to the use of the imagery of angels and cherubs on the side of buildings and personal statue use for protection. As the modern era of architecture took hold, the use of ornate stonework was abandoned and with it, the need for Gargoyles and Grotesques as protectors faded.

There were legends attached to these antiquated stone creatures history. Some say that they truly could see from within their stone exterior. It was customary for those who respected the beast to nod at them when passing. It is said that the Gargoyle would nod in turn out of respect.

Many believed that Gargoyles and Grotesques would come to life at night and would either fly or prowl over a village or city protecting against evil. They would return to their perches and turn back to stone when the sun rose. Some believed that rain could strengthen the stone creatures powers.

Folklore exist that the Gargoyles that were removed and abandoned from buildings were rewarded for their service of protection by the angels. It is said that they were gathered up by the angels and taken to safe places. The angels gave them the gift of mobility. It is thought that they would hide on the tops of buildings and dark places of cities during the day and would move freely at night. Belief was that they would only show themselves while animated to those they felt were true of heart and enduringly good. For those who were good could look a Gargoyle or Grotesque in the eye and recognize the nobility of the creature. From this a bond based on goodness would be formed.

The next time you are out at night walking your city keep watch of the shadows and up at the sky. You might be so fortunate to see a Gargoyle or roaming Grotesque spared by the angels. If you have confidence that you are good in intentions look them in the eye, say thank you and give them a nod. If they deem you worthy and pure of heart they will nod back.

Painting “Gargoyle” copyright Angelique Duncan -Twilight Faerie
Painting “Oakland Gargoyle”copyright Angela Ryer A. Ryer Studio and available for purchase from A. Ryer Studio on Etsy.

Angelique Duncan is proprietor of Twilight Faerie Nostalgic and Capricious Objects. Check out her artist page to find links to her shops and vintage inspired traditional holiday art. Visit again next month for more traditions and folklore.

The Scarecrow

The Scarecrow
-By Angelique Duncan

The Scarecrow

One of the quintessential symbols of fall is the scarecrow. The simple humanoid made from straw and newspaper who wears old clothes and often a hat. His job is to guard the pumpkin patch or the cornfield and in urban environments he watches over the flowerbeds and potted plants. He is usually comical, sometimes jovial and often childlike in appearance. However the scarecrow was not always such a friendly figure. He once partook in great rituals and was a fearsome guardian who channeled the spirits of the seasons and was believed to kill those who threatened his crops or village.

Some of the earliest scarecrows appear in Greece and were carved from wood to represent the son of Aphrodite, Priapus who was noted as the protector of orchids and gardens. This practice was present in Roman culture as well. Scarecrows were also recorded as being present to scare away flocks of birds from the river Nile. In Thailand scarecrows were for used for protection of the home. They were set out to scare away ghost and unwanted sprits who would come to collect souls.

In Japan scarecrows were made from wooden stakes draped with rags and bells. These scarecrows were more abstract in their appearance than humanoid. Raw meat would be hung from the stakes giving them a rotten stench. They were as much to scare away trespassers and thieves, as they were to fend off birds. Later the Japanese scarecrows began to take on a more human look, wearing old raincoats, wide brim hats and boots. These guardians were given swords to make their appearance more intimidating. They were known as the Kuebiko, and were a representation of the Shinto deity of agriculture, who was a man who could not walk on his own but had vast knowledge and awareness of all things in the world.

The Vikings believed that scarecrows channeled nature spirits who would ward off evil that could otherwise spread disease, destroy crops and kill livestock or threaten the villages. However, it was also believed that the scarecrow could at times become possessed and grow too powerful and zealous in its protection, killing any animal or human it deemed as a threat. Ceremonies where held giving the scarecrows offerings of clothes and food and drink. There are legends that human sacrifices were given to appease the nature spirits at planting. It is said that the deceased sacrifice would be hung in the fields after a ritual in honor of the scarecrow and the nature spirits that dwelled in him. Although some believe that these bodies were actually that of thieves that were impaled and left as a warning to others not to trespass.

Some Europeans believed that former protectors who had passed away occupied scarecrow bodies. It was thought that the soul of farmers, law officers, or even loyal canines could be summoned to inhabit the scarecrow to protect the land. Others believed they were harvest Gods who were brought to life by hosting a ceremony at the scarecrows birth in the Spring. By showing the scarecrow respect once they were erected, the Gods would protect in return. The scarecrow might be moved to watch over different fields and shared by townsfolk. At the end of the harvest on or near October 31st the scarecrow would be paraded through town for a grand celebration thanking him for his service and burned in a bon fire to free his spirit until the next planting season.

In Germany early scarecrows were made from wood and carved to resemble witches that were set out in the early spring. It was believed that the wooden witches would draw any evil from the ground that may have entered the earth during the Winter months. The witches would stay in the field until harvest, at that time they were burned. Some German farmers would build humanoid scarecrows from old clothes and often depicted with red scarves that were considered the embodiment of bootzmon, the boogeyman of the fields. These boogeymen would move through the field frightening away trespassers.

In Scotland scarecrows were sometimes believed to house the spirit of the Tattie Bogle. Tattie Bogle was known as a potato monster who would hide in the potato fields and could cause potato blight and terrorize and assault humans.

Both the Dutch and the Germans would create a female companion for their scarecrows. She would be adorned in a long dress and often have a bonnet. At times the female would be posted at the opposite end of the field than her male counter part. At other times she might be moved to stand with him. It was believed that they would at times move together around the fields at night.

Scarecrows made their way to North America in the 1800’s traveling with the farming practices of immigrants. As America became a melting pot of traditions, scarecrow customs were melted together as well. And with theses scarecrow practices, the mythologies followed too. There are countless folklores of scarecrows having the ability to move around the fields they guard on their own. It was widely believed that on a full moon scarecrows could capture disembodied spirits and take on an animated life and move freely.

Some myths suggest that scarecrows have the ability to multiply. During a full moon; especially a full moon on Halloween, scarecrows would converge together and move as packs through entire villages making mischief, reaping destruction and scaring humans they felt were not respectful.

During the age of small farms and agriculture in the United States scarecrows were a common site through out the growing months of the Spring and Summer. They were eclectic in their appearance and often a spooky sight to see. However with modern farming technology, the scarecrows job has been replaced by mechanized means. Once mediums for spirits and Gods, they now they are relegated to a novelty set out during the fall as Halloween and Autumn decorations. As the old time religions and practices were abandoned, Scarecrow became more of a temporary art object and less of a protector; their appearance shifted to a kindler, gentler form.

Scarecrows are still celebrated today in scarecrow festivals. Usually large events held in rural and some urban communities in which residents are invited to construct scarecrows to put on public display, often with prizes awarded for different categories. Sometimes the displays are held in a central location, other festivals become community wide events where the public can tour the town spotting scarecrows.

Should you put out a scarecrow in your garden whether for protecting your plants during the growing season or as a decoration for fall, remember to treat him with respect. Give him an offering of dried food or his very own special flowerpot. Make sure he is shaded when it is sunny and offer him water when it is dry. When there are storms offer him shelter. Keep him company every now and then so he doesn’t get too lonely and knows he is appreciated.

If he is to be used for the following year, bring him in after midnight on October 31st so that he doesn’t hold over any evil spirits that might be released next season and thank him gratefully for his service of guardian. Keep him stored in a safe place. Other wise he might become unhappy and decide to wander off on his own and join a group of disgruntled scarecrows making their way down your street.

Angelique Duncan is proprietor of Twilight Faerie Nostalgic and Capricious Objects. Check out her artist page to find links to her shops and vintage inspired traditional holiday art. Visit again next month for more traditions and folklore.

The Hounds of Hell and the Big Black Dogs

The Hounds of Hell and the Big Black Dogs
-By Angelique Duncan

Like black cats, big black dogs are surrounded by superstition and mystery and associated with a dark place in mythology. These legends can be found in the writings of many ancient cultures going as far back as the Greeks, Celts and Norse mythologies pre Christianity and persist into modern culture on nearly every continent. Although they have been given many different names; Phantom Dogs, Devil Dogs, Fairy Hounds, and Fire Hounds, most commonly they are known as Hellhounds.

The descriptions vary from culture and continent, however there are commonalities that tie the legends to the same sort of canine beast. They are unnaturally big and black. Often described as having razor sharp teeth, large feet with claws and glowing eyes of red or yellow. Their fur is said to be long, wild and unruly. Hellhounds are believed to have a loud, ferocious and frightening growl, emit a foul odor of death or smoke and breathe fire. They are said to have supernatural speed and strength and in some legends leave a trail of fire left where they have ran or burning embers where they have sat. Some say they have a ghostly specter appearance. In some regions they appear as a normal dog of unusual size but can shape shift or disappear at will. In some mythologies they are said to be three headed and in others headless.

Depending on the culture the belief in their purpose in this world varies. To some they are an omen of something bad to happen. To others they are sacred guardians. Many believed that they guard the gates to Hattie or the openings to the underworld of death. Known by some as the Bearers of Death, myths say that Hellhounds are sent by demons to retrieve souls that belong in hell or owe a debt to the devil. Others say they collect the undead who wander the earth aimless and take them to the world of the deceased. The Welsh, as well as other cultures, believed that they may only hunt for souls at designated times of year such as during the Wild Hunt. It is widely thought in Europe that the hounds may enter this world on the night of the Autumn Equinox and remain until the end of Winter at the Spring Equinox. Some believe they appear on Halloween and may roam freely to hunt until the night of the Winter Solstice. Some say they are allowed to enter this world such days as Good Friday, All Saints Day or Christmas Eve.

Superstition has it that if one looks into the eyes or hears the bark of a Hellhound it is an omen that great tragedy will come or that the individual or some one they love will die. Some legends say one must sight a hellhound three times to be taken by it.

Magical Fairy Hounds are thought to be protectors of the supernatural world. They guard the faeries and elves that pass through to the mortal world. Some say that they guard the treasure and sacred mystical grounds of the magic folk. They can be seen as a large dog wandering the woods, however if one gets too close to what they are guarding they will turn into a viscous attack creature.

Early Christians would bury a black dog alive on the grounds of a freshly built church believing the spirit of the dog would protect the building, grounds and congregation. In some European, Germanic and Nordic cultures it is believed the hellhounds are the returned spirits of dogs who where killed by this practice wandering the earth either to exact revenge for their ill fate or because their souls are now trapped and cannot go on to the afterlife.

In some legends the hellhounds are believed not to be evil, but benevolent in nature. It is said they can be summoned to protect a people. Once called upon they are fiercely loyal and will imprint on that individual their entire life. They are sometimes sent to watch over a good soul who is ill to prevent demons or the devil from stealing them to hell and ensure the soul has safe passage to heaven undisturbed. Another folklore tells that the hounds are sent as messengers to deliver the communication that a loved one has passed. Mysterious large dogs seen in graveyards are said to be protecting the resting place of their loved ones or have been summoned to protect a special grave.

Till this day, people all over the globe claim sightings of Hellhounds documented through photographs, videos and written testaments. They have claimed to be seen in forest, churches and graveyards and upon deserted roads. Whether these sightings are supernatural spirit dogs or wild lost dogs wandering without a home is not confirmed.

Not unlike the superstitions surrounding black cats, black dogs have suffered the discriminatory consequences of these legends and folklores. Today big black dogs are the least adopted of all dogs in shelters and are euthanized at greater rates than other colors of dogs. Surveys by shelters and animal rights groups show that people still connote black dogs with Hellhounds and some kind of evil. People will show fear when approached by a big black dog whereas they will not fear a yellow, white or brownish dog. The reality is big black dogs are wonderful, loyal and make great companions. If you are looking to add a canine to your family, consider adopting a big black dog. They may just be the greatest friend and guardian you will ever encounter.

In loving memory of Doss; loyal friend, fierce protector and beautiful soul.

*This article has not been written to perpetuate the fears of black dogs. Quite the opposite, it has been written to examine the history of why people fear black dogs and encourage folks to see them for what they are; majestic beautiful animals who need to be loved too and encourage folks to adopt big black dogs.

Black Dog Syndrome –Slate

To learn about Black Dog Syndrome and adoption visit Petfinder

Black Dog Syndrome

Angelique Duncan is proprietor of Twilight Faerie Nostalgic and Capricious Objects. Check out her artist page to find links to her shops and vintage inspired traditional holiday art. Visit again next month for more traditions and folklore.

The Origins of the Christmas Elf

Origins of the Christmas Elf-By Angelique Duncan

Legends, traditions and stories about elves have existed for centuries. They find their first mentions in Norse, Scandinavian and Celtic folklore. However the Elves and their associations with the Christmas season is a fairly recent holiday tradition, becoming part of our popular contemporary culture of the United States only within the late nineteenth century.

As with many of the lost magical races; the Elves have shared traits and qualities that mingle with and confused with other enchanted species. Depending on the region and type of Elf, their descriptions and purposes vary. The imagery of Elves range from older bearded men to young and hairless, some have said they have eyes that glow when it is dark and some say they have one eye like that of a Cyclops. Consistently they are described as having pointed ears and being of small stature. Some legends say they are shape shifters and even capable of becoming invisible.

They are believed to be supernatural in their powers and capable of magic. Some believe that nature Elves have unique youthful beauty with slender bodies and narrow features. It is believed that Elves are ambivalent towards humans and may choose to help, sabotage or ignore them upon their whim. Most mythologies consistently tell of Elves as protectors against evil who guard over innocence, such as small children and animals and often bearing gifts.

In Scandinavian folklore the Elves are known as Tomte, Nisse, Tomtenisse and are often confused with gnomes. They are said to have long white beards, wear comfortable clothing or tunics and most always have a hat, usually of bright red or blue that is pointed or knitted. They are said to have pointed ears and eyes that can reflect light giving the illusion of glowing eyes. At tallest, reports say that they stand 3 feet, while some say they are of the same description but not more than 5 inches tall with smooth hairless faces and big round eyes, with four fingers

It is said that like gnomes or brownies that the Tomte live in barns or in hidden places within a homestead acting as a guardian over the home. They protect small livestock, pets and the children from any evil that may try to enter the family home. It was widely believed that the Tomte or House Elves are spirits of relatives who returned to help guide their family, some saying that they are the collective spirits of ones ancestors embodied as one small being as a reminder you are being watched over and protected.

When treated with dignity and respect they will help around the house and yard bring good fortune. It is customary to leave a bowl of buttered porridge out for ones Tomte as a sign of appreciation. Also it is common etiquette to always give warning when something is spilled or fallen to “look out below” to the Tomte as so they won’t get hit or spilled upon. The Tomte reward their family with small gifts if they were considered worthy in virtue.

Tomte are offended by ill behavior such as swearing, laziness, crass or lewd humor and tackiness. They do not accept gossip or lies and absolutely will not tolerate disrespect or harm to animals. To do so results in retaliation. If witnessed by a Tomte or Elf he will fight to defend the animal. Many believed that a bite from a Tomte is poisonous and results in going mad and that the only method to heal such a wound is from a magical healing source.

Many would keep a small figurine or statue of a Tomte or Elf on their mantle or bookshelf to remind the household that their ancestors were watching and to invite the spirits or relatives in. However after the rise of Christianity the practice of leaving invitation to the spirits of deceased ancestors became frowned upon. The figurines were seen as keeping false idols and an invitation to the devils spirit. People began hiding the Tomte or abandoning them all together for fear of persecution. Some say that the Tomte and Elves went into hiding during this era, abandoning their homesteads and human families.

The Tomte were associated with the Winter Solstice and became the Swedish and Norwegian equivalent of Santa Claus. The Tomte were depicted often with or riding a pig or goat. The pig was considered a symbol of fertility and good luck and the goat was the Tomtes predecessor to the Yule holiday, known as The Yule Goat. Tradition had it that the Yule Goat would knock on doors delivering presents. It is thought that the Christmas gift bearing Tomte combined the two mythologies to preserve Pagan folklore of the ancestral spirits visiting the home.

Around the 1840’s in Denmark the Tomte or Nisse Elves took on the name of Julenisse, a singular Elf-gnome like creature who is said to live in a forest and comes riding a goat door to door to deliver gifts at Christmas. With the rise of the Santa Claus tradition, Julenisse eventually replaced the Yule Goat and took on a more Santa like appearance in his depiction. Following with the tradition of the Tomte, it is customary to leave a bowl of porridge for Julenisse in gratitude for his gifts.

It was during the Victorian era that Elves became associated with Christmas in the USA, the United Kingdome and Canada. In the poem A Visit from St. Nicholas written by Clement Clarke Moore, St. Nicholas is referenced as an Elf. St. Nicholas gradually was replaced in popular culture by the jolly image of Santa Claus and there after Elves became popular in Christmas literature and imagery. The legends arose out the many stories and folklores of the existence of magical Christmas Elves that lived at the North Pole. They are usually described as very dainty with pointed ears and clad in green. The magical Christmas Elves are said to live in Santa’s workshop as toy builders. They tend to Santa’s flying reindeer, bake, and over see all things Christmas through out the year until Christmas Eve when the toys are delivered by Santa.

So perhaps the Elves find their place in Christmas through literature and fairy tales as the stuff of myth. Or maybe they are the spirits of our ancestors who try to protect us, unseen. The Elves, as we call them, seemed to have evolved from the Scandinavian Tomte traditions of long ago to find their way into popular European and American holiday culture.

There are those however, who believe that the Elves are real and still here, just in hiding. Studies done in Iceland in the last decade by the University of Iceland’s Faculty of Social Sciences reveal that overwhelming as a nation, the Icelanders believe that ghost are among us and that the Elves, known as the huldufolk or hidden folk, roam the country side, hiding in rocks and caves safely obscured to most humans.
Perhaps they are still here and maybe once a year on a cold winters night they return to check on us. When you leave out the plate of cookies and milk for Santa Claus set out a little bowl of porridge with butter, just in case to invite them in and let them know you still believe.

Angelique Duncan is proprietor of Twilight Faerie Nostalgic and Capricious Objects. Check out her artist page to find links to her shops and vintage inspired traditional holiday art. Visit again next month for more traditions and folklore.

The Turkey

The Turkey-By Angelique Duncan

When one thinks of Thanksgiving images of the proud, plump turkey is immediately to follow. The nostalgic symbolism of this magnificent bird at Thanksgiving is so synonymous with the celebration that the holiday is often referenced as “Turkey Day”. How did the turkey become our national symbol of Thanksgiving? The bird has a rich and noble history worthy of acknowledgment as one enjoys their harvest feast.

The turkey was once revered by Mexican and South American tribes as a sacred bird and in some tribes like the Aztecs, Toltecs and Myans was appreciated as a God. The mythologies and symbolisms varied from tribe and region based on observations of the turkeys’ traits and behaviors.

In some Native North American cultures the turkey symbolized fertility, virility as well as pride. The male turkey will show it’s decorative plumes and strut in an elaborate mating dance to attract the female of the species. The dance of the turkey is seen as prideful and arrogant with grand confidence. This mannerism was often imitated by tribes before battle with the wearing of full turkey feather robes and headdresses.

The turkey was also known for being a bird of great wisdom and a messenger of warnings. The turkey has been said to have a sixth sense for awareness of its environment and can warn of danger and predators. They will fluff their plumes and take an aggressive stance if they feel threatened; well before the danger presents its self. The fowl will become intensely protective and never holds back in attack or when confronted with battle.

Turkeys will roost in trees and elevated spaces away from predators and to have a vantage point to oversee their territory. In the sleeping flock one turkey will be “appointed” look out to give warning of danger. Turkeys have very specific calls, gobbles and screams that have meaning for communication among the flock, creating a fairly sophisticated bird language of signals.

To many tribes the turkey was considered a rain spirit for their ability to predict the change in weather. When rain is eminent turkeys will puff their ornate plumes and fluff their feathers and give calls and dance. The rain dances of many North American tribes are an emulation of the turkey’s rain dance.

Tribes attributed the turkey with the symbolism of bounty, sacrifice and generosity. The turkey was given between tribes as a gift of bounty and goodwill. Being one of the hardest of the large fowl to successfully hunt and its ability to feed many when caught, the wild turkey was often the game of choice for ritual and celebratory meals of the Native Americans. Unlike the modern domestic turkeys raised for quantity of meat who are sluggish and cannot fly, wild turkeys can run at speeds up to 25 miles per hour and can fly short distances at 55miles per hour. Making them quite the challenge to catch for a predator or hunter. The turkey was present for harvest meals as a special bounty, well before the arrival of the pilgrims to American soil.

The turkey arrived at its namesake as a matter of mistaken identity from Spanish explorers who discovered the bird thinking they were returning to Europe with Guinea fowl from Turkey. Given the bird was acquired unknowingly from the wrong continent; it was named for its origin of discovery. And so the name was given to the North American fowl after a country the bird had never traveled from.

It is widely accepted that turkey was served at the first documented Thanksgiving meal, although there is no concrete evidence of this. It has been documented that beef and fowl were served at the first Thanksgiving feast, but no bird is specified. Turkeys are natural to the southeast and southwestern states and would not have been prevalent on the eastern seaboard at that time. Some historians say that the intent was to find and hunt a turkey, but the pilgrims were unsuccessful and stories tell that humble crows and fish were eaten instead. There is a historical letter that was written during the era of the pilgrims that mentions a turkey being served as part of a feast, however the document is not in reference to the legendary supper of Myles Standish fame that is romanticized in the Thanksgiving tradition.

Although turkey may have been served at some feasts, it has been accepted by modern historians, that the turkey did not become the traditional meal of the holiday until much later. Many Americans would serve goose, chicken or quail in lieu of the turkey as the centerpiece of the traditional meal. Turkeys may have become popular due to the aforementioned letter written by a pilgrim, Edward Winslow, which referenced a turkey hunt before a Thanksgiving meal. Some equate the popularity of Turkey at Thanksgiving from a proclamation by Alexander Hamilton that “no citizen of the United States should refrain from turkey on Thanksgiving day”. The turkey was a symbolic bird in the nations beginnings and was advocated by Benjamin Franklin to become the national emblem instead of the bald eagle. The historical quote follows:

“For my own part I wish the Bald Eagle had not been chosen the representative of our country. He is a bird of bad moral character. He does not get his living honestly. You may have seen him perched on some dead tree near the river, where, too lazy to fish for himself, he watches the labour of the fishing hawk; and when that diligent bird has at length taken a fish, and is bearing it to his nest for the support of his mate and young ones, the Bald Eagle pursues him and takes it from him.

With all this injustice, he is never in good case but like those among men who live by sharping & robbing he is generally poor and often very lousy. Besides he is a rank coward: The little King Bird not bigger than a Sparrow attacks him boldly and drives him out of the district. He is therefore by no means a proper emblem for the brave and honest Cincinnati of America who have driven all the King birds from our country…

I am on this account not displeased that the figure is not known as a Bald Eagle, but looks more like a Turkey. For the truth the Turkey is in comparison a much more respectable bird, and withal a true original native of America… He is besides, though a little vain & silly, a bird of courage, and would not hesitate to attack a grenadier of the British guards who should presume to invade his farm yard with a red coat on.”

How the turkey became the official sacrificial meat for the modern Thanksgiving meal is truly unknown. However it is now a mainstay of the holiday and one could not imagine Thanksgiving with out turkey. When celebrating all you are thankful for this year and counting your blessings, remember to give thanks to the turkey, a bird of noble and rich history worthy of its own American holiday.

Angelique Duncan is proprietor of Twilight Faerie Nostalgic and Capricious Objects. Check out her artist page to find links to her shops and vintage inspired traditional holiday art. Visit again next month for more traditions and folklore.

Happy Halloween

Happy Halloween-By Angelique Duncan

For many of us we long for the first snap of a cool front and the spiced scents and pumpkin flavors of fall. The first fallen leaves are a welcome signal that it is coming. We notice the sun begins to set differently in the late afternoons and the moon hangs more prominently with a greater glow in the night sky. The call of a distant crow and the grackle comforts us. The orange and black is our banner and the grinning carved pumpkin our friend. We are Autumn people and we carry with us, a love for Halloween.

We wait all year to unlock our spooky decorations from their captivity and set them free displaying them about in our homes. To us, those figurines and die cut window cut outs are our familiar family come to visit for a while. We carry out the ritual of selecting the greatest pumpkin; one that is not too tall, not too round but the perfect canvas upon which to carve a creepy or cleaver face to scare costumed knockers who dare grace our porches and stoops. For those who do dare; we fill large bowls with candy treats and give generously to those who will scream “Trick Or Treat”!

Why do we love Halloween? We just do. It is something inside us that is inherent, like the beating of the heart or taking breath into our lungs. We don’t expect others to understand it, and often they don’t. However for us, Halloween is special. It can not be separated from who we are.

To some it is a day of merriment and amusement. It is the joy of hosting costumed parties and Trick or Treat adventures. For children and adults alike, it is a time to dress in masquerade, hide behind the mask and for one night be something one is not. There is something magical to a child, that for one night to be whomever they want to be, staying up late to run the streets in the darkness of night knocking on doors demanding crazy amounts of candy; and the satisfaction that adults must comply with the child’s demands of treats for threat of trickery.

Maybe for some of us celebrating Halloween is a way to capture the exhilaration of childhood memories of happy Halloween’s past that we just don’t want to let go of. October 31st is all the innocence, mischief and wonderment of youth wrapped in one orange glowing holiday.

Perhaps it goes further than childhood back into the antiquity of man to Samhian. Could the love of Halloween route back over 2000 years ago to a slumbering knowledge of ancient bonfire rituals on hilltops that stirs and wishes to be awakened? Maybe some never really forgot the ties to seasons and moon cycles. Perchance the need to celebrate what is now Halloween is a vestige to long gone practices and insights into the spirituality of this realm.

Halloween is second most popular holiday in America, second only to Christmas. The fascination with the day is gaining popularity in other countries as well. Possibly as a passing fad or it is a part of our collective history and culture that demands to be acknowledged. Through out time in some form or fashion, under many names whether as Samhain, Witches night, Beggar’s Night, All Souls Day, Hollow’s Eve or Day of the Dead or Halloween; it has been celebrated. From bonfires and carved pumpkins, sheet ghost and costumes, crepe paper and wax to sugar skulls it takes it’s form.

Autumn people take comfort that that we are not alone, there are others out there. Others who feel the tug of an October wind and come the 31st, they will keep their Jack o lanterns lit for the love of Halloween!

Angelique Duncan is proprietor of Twilight Faerie Nostalgic and Capricious Objects. Check out her artist page to find links to her shops and vintage inspired traditional holiday art. Visit again next month for more traditions and folklore.

The Owls on Halloween

The Owls on Halloween-By Angelique Duncan

Owls have always been associated with Halloween. Often they are depicted as secondary characters in vintage postcards and decorations to other Halloween symbols. Owls can be seen circling overhead or in the skyline with witches, ghost and others familiar spooky icons. However, in recent times they have become more prominent and have become a popular main character in the cast of Halloween imagery.

By virtue that they are nocturnal, they carry an air of mystique. Their appearance has all the features of something mystical; large oddly blinking eyes, a head that turns in an unnatural fashion and sharp claws on their feet. Some scream and screech, some hoot and coo with voices that drift over darkness often heard, but never seen. Depending on the culture and era owls have been perceived to be scary creatures of the night or as wise messengers and protectors.

Owls are thought to be one of the oldest of the bird species and perhaps their association with wisdom comes with the inherited age of the species. The notion that owls are wise may also come from their association with Athena the Greek Goddess of wisdom. In many cultures they are seen as intelligent, observant and helpful messengers.

Owls and an association with Halloween go way back to ancient Celtic times and Samhian. Owls could be seen flying and swooping near Samhain bonfires. It is reported to have been a common scene. Given the nature of midnight celebrations and the association with the “witching hour” and the presences of the nocturnal creatures, owls became connected to witchcraft through their frequency in legends and symbols of witches.

One folklore states that if one sees an owl flying or circling low during the day they are bringing an omen or news that will affect the person who see’s them. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as it is a warning to prepare the person and an action of protection, although foreboding.

Some believed that an owl perched on a house or in a tree near a house is a warning that someone will die in that home or that something evil will happen there. In other folklore it is believed that an owl perched on ones roof is offering protection from evil. Many believe that to see an owl during the day is an omen and to take heed. It is said to see an owl at midnight is bad luck.

It has been thought that owls, due to their wisdom are the familiars of witches and they will carry messages for them. Other myths state that owls are themselves witches that have shape shifted to travel undetected under the cover of darkness.

Over the centuries and continents there have been numerous legends and stories of owls as deities, demons or gods, some benevolent and some of ill intent. Two popular folklores originating from Mexico and Texas is sightings of the Lechuza and of the Aswang. Often in the Autumn and near Halloween. The Lechuza became a popular image during the romanticized Victorian era. It has an unusually large owl body with a human women’s head. The Aswang is just the opposite having a human woman’s body and an owls head. Both are said to be a form of witch transformed. Both are also said suck the blood of their victims. The Aswang is thought to attack pregnant women and steal their unborn child. Rumors have also risen that both the Lechuza and the Aswang steal children out after dark. Some legends report that when one hears an owl screeching or hooting at night they are trying to lure small children out of the house to take away to the woods.

Images of owls exist in almost every culture and the stories attached to them are wide and varied. Sometimes the evil villain, some times the voice of reason, a protector or warrior or wise sage. The owl wears many hats and only they know who they really are and their intent. So when you hear the haunting hoot off in the distance be warned, the owls may be talking to you.

Illustration “Wilbur” Copyright Intricate Knot. To more of Intricate Knots art and where to buy visit her artist page Art For A Gloomy Day.

Illustration “Owlie On The Moon” Copyright Michelle Angelique Duncan. To see more of Twilight Faerie’s art and where to buy visit her artist page Twilight Faerie Nostalgic and Capricious Objects.

Angelique Duncan is proprietor of Twilight Faerie Nostalgic and Capricious Objects. Check out her artist page to find links to her shops and vintage inspired traditional holiday art. Visit again next month for more traditions and folklore.

Featured Artist Interview June 2015 with Twilight Faerie

To find where Twilight Faerie sells her wares visit her artist page on HAB. 

Interview with Michelle Angelique Duncan of Twilight Faerie:

What inspired you to start the Halloween Artist Bazaar group?

There are those who are Halloween people. At some point they fell in love with that day that falls on October 31st. For them Halloween isn’t just a holiday that comes once a year and then it is done. For Halloween people it is part of who they are. They surround themselves with, and some have a passion to create, Halloween. Halloween Artist Bazaar was started to preserve the spirit of Halloween for those people who create and those who collect. What we do is a very special niche in the art world.

You are guiding this group into being much more than just an Etsy team, where do you see HAB headed?

Halloween Artist Bazaar was never intended to be Etsy-centric. When the group was formed it just happened that a lot of contemporary Halloween artist were selling on Etsy. Forming an Etsy team for the group made sense as a valuable tool. Halloween Artist Bazaar was always intended to be a cross-platform group with members who sell from all kinds of online venues and our own selling catalog. I hope that HAB will be able to establish itself as an online shopping catalog where Halloween collectors will find one of a kind handmade Halloween works that embody quality craftsmanship, unique character and sincerity.

What is your fondest Halloween memory?

I can not say there is only one fond Halloween memory, more of an amalgamation of Halloweens from childhood. Growing up in the 1970’s Halloween was a big deal in my neighborhood. Nearly the whole neighborhood participated. All the houses would be decorated with a least a lit Jack o Lantern or a sheet ghost. Kids and grown ups all dressed in elaborate costumes, most of them home made. At dusk the streets would fill up with the excitement of trick or treaters, screams and music could be heard from makeshift yard and garage haunted houses. It was as though the entire neighborhood magically transformed into something different and we were all celebrating on Halloween.

How do you celebrate Halloween?

I used to throw elaborate Victorian style costume parties complete with silly party games, costume contests and an Autumnal feast. My situation is different now, so gone are those days.

I still dress in costume, usually as a cat. The yard gets decorated and house get decorated. We carve pumpkins and I bake Autumn treats. A few friends will come by for the evening. We burn a fire in the fire pit, grill sausage wraps on the smoker and give out bottles of water to neighbors who stop by. There is a huge bucket I fill with candy and hand out to kids. My rule is to get the candy the kids have to yell TRICK OR TREAT as loud as they can, and they must have on a costume of some sort. We host a food drive on Halloween night where folks can drop off donations in big decorated boxes that I set out in the yard. The neighborhood I am in has a lot of kids and some years we have a huge turn out. Most of the houses are decorated and folks hand out candy.

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

My family was filled with artistic people, so I was always around art and art supplies. There isn’t a time I remember in which I wasn’t drawing, cutting paper or gluing glitter on to things. I received a lot of instruction from my family when I was very young. I took art classes through out junior high into college. My floral work comes from 15 years in the floral industry; the decoupage comes from a love of cutting and gluing. The joke I make is that the floral work supports my glittery Halloween habit. Even when I was very young I painted; however, it wasn’t until 2014 that I finally got brave enough to try and sell the paintings. I created Twilight Faerie and started selling the Halloween and floral pieces in 2003.

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

The inclination to create Halloween came back when I was nine years old. Deciding the household did not have nearly enough decorations (and my parents didn’t see the necessity of buying more), I decided to create my own to hang about.

There were tissue paper ghost and construction paper bats that dangled from yarn and paper Jack o lanterns with cut out tissue eyes that hung in the windows. I had started constructing a scarecrow from scratch. He was drawn in pencil and colored with watercolor markers. He stood about 4 feet tall and his head arms and legs where cut out and attached to brads so that his joints would move. Making these decorations for the house became a huge project that lasted for three weeks building up to Halloween night.

The scarecrow was an undertaking. It took me a very long time to get him just right and time was running out. I worked feverishly as soon as I got home from school that Halloween to get him finished to hang on the door before the trick or treating started. Somehow I felt he had to fulfill his Halloween destiny and be displayed before dusk. It was that Halloween, when it got dark and I was hanging the scarecrow on the door that I knew some day I wanted to do something to contribute to the world of Halloween.

All my life I have loved Halloween and the imagery of folklore and fairy tales. I was inspired to create ornaments and decoupage pieces as a way to preserve the imagery that is so dear to me. I didn’t want those magical images to be lost to the world. It was as if the images from the past had to be put out in the world for another foray. Back when I started there were only a handful of Halloween artist and only a scarce few who where creating pieces from vintage images. The paintings I paint echo that love of Halloween and fairy tales; there is always a need to get the images that frolic around in my head to paper and out to the world. I suppose I am hoping that Halloween and whimsical imagery might mean as much to others as it does me, and might give those images and creations life that is passed down through generations to come.