Krewe du Vieux and Krewe Delusion 2016

Most people outside of New Orleans and Mobile think that Mardi Gras is just a single day. In reality, it is a full season, which starts on January 6th. In the Catholic calendar this is the Epiphany. Carnival, as the season is known, runs from the Epiphany to Fat Tuesday; the duration of Carnival depends on the year and when Easter falls (which is based on a complicated formula involving the vernal equinox and the full moon).

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The full moon the night of the parade!

So while the rest of you recover from the winter holidays after New Years has come and gone, those of us down here still have at least six weeks of feasting, partying and parading to endure. The Winter holidays and the New Year is really just how we warm up for Carnival.

There are several early parades, like the Joan of Arc parade, but the first big parade night is Krewe du Vieux and Krewe Delusion…two parades that are still completely DIY and mule operated. Before mechanical engines were created, mules pulled all the floats. While the other parades now have tractor pulled, professionally created floats, Krewe du Vieux and Krewe Delusion use mules and hand make everything. (There are other DIY parades, but they are smaller parades and not considered to stand amongst the major contenders).

For me, these two parades are the best representation of the spirit of both Carnival and of New Orleans herself. They always satire the politics of the city and the state and are completely bawdy, inappropriate and risque! They have some of the most amazing costumes, and when you watch them march past, it’s like watching a mile long procession of chaos and noise. These parades mean so much to those of us who live here.

My wonderful thesis advisor, Dr. Catherine Loomis, shared a story with me about why KdV is so important to her. I think her story shows you how the locals see and feel about this parade and why its such a beloved and well attended event:

In 2006, which you might remember was a very precarious Mardi Gras, we were waiting for the parade to start, and we all knew if it didn’t go well, that was it: the city was finished. So there we are, cocktails in hand, and the first float comes around the corner. And it catches on the bumper of a car, and the mule panics, and rears, and falls over dead. And all of us just lost it. It was everything that had gone wrong in nola in visible form. So we’re crying, and the mule’s owner is crying, and the police are calling for the horse removal machine (every parade has to have one on call) and the horse removal machine arrives—and the mule stands up! He wasn’t dead! And that’s how a bunch of English professors figured out that the city was going to be alright.

These were the first parades I ever attended, and each year they just get better and better. I wanted to share some pictures I took to give you a glimpse into the beauty and hilarity of Krewe du Vieux and Krewedeulusion! Enjoy!

This year the theme of KdV was XXX! KdV said of their parade: “Hoping to XXX out at least a few of the bad guys and bad memories, the extroverts, extremists, extra-terrestrials, expendables, sexplorers and sexperts of Krewe du Vieux will take to the streets of the Marigny, French Quarter and CBD on Saturday, January 23 at 6:00 PM (coming early this year). Spectators are advised to exercise extreme caution as exuberant exhibitionists!”

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Shrines

Over the years I’ve had a lot of questions about the differences between altars and shrines. I have also been asked about how to create a shrine.

An altar is a working space for doing ritual and magic.

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Working altar

A shrine is static space devoted to a particular deity or purpose.

In my home I have one altar and I have many shrines.

Caring and feeding shrines takes devotion and effort. I wouldn’t recommend setting up a shrine and then ignoring it.

When I set up a shrine I constantly leave offerings, stop for prayer and meditation, and I am constantly “building” on it. Whenever I find something that I think is appropriate for the shrine, I rearrange and add to what is already there.

Shrines are a satisfying way of doing daily devotion and are good reminders for daily practice.

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A public shrine set up outside of local restaurant, Yuki.

Shrines can be anywhere, but many people have a hard time making a space or feel that they don’t have a “good” space for a shrine. Ive had a lot of students complain about having shrines on top of their dressers or bookshelves. They feel like the spaces aren’t respectful enough and the space itself is inconvenient, or that it’s too obvious when those who may not know about their spirituality are present. Also, in such daily space, things can get knocked over or touched more easily.

So I decided to get crafty for Yule this year. I made several close friends shrines for their personal practices.

I bought wooden crates from Michaels and painted, glued and cobbled together small shrines that can be hung on the wall or sat on a flat surface. They weren’t very big, about 10×11 or 16×8. I also bought small journals, votive candle holders and small glass plates to put inside each one. For one I added a small iron cauldron. For one person, I also found a necklace created by another seller on Etsy that was created for the goddess she works with.

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You know you’re a witch when…

I personalized each one for the person it was meant for, and made sure there was still plenty of space for the shrine to “grow.”. They were fun to do and were not hard to create. I felt like I was able to put a lot of thought, creativity and love into each one.

My craft skills are fairly basic and so I thought this might be helpful for the people who have asked me about shrines over the years. If you don’t have a good space for a shrine, this was a pretty straightforward way to make one that can easily be hung up away from daily life. I used glass, metal and mosaic glue (which cost me $7 from Michaels as well) for the heavy duty gluing. They all turned out to be incredibly sturdy, so they should last usual wear and tear really well.

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If you’re interested in one, let me know! I’m happy to make more. 🙂

Happy New Year!

My New Year’s Eve was a little more exciting this year than usual.

My friend was 40 weeks pregnant and I had decided to spend the week following Solstice and Christmas with her as she waited.

She was originally due on the 29th, but the 29th came and went and nothing happened. I went with her to a sonogram appointment on the 30th and we spent the day walking around various stores. She was going stir crazy at home and so we decided that running errands would keep her occupied and moving. Her partner had to work, so she and I ventured out into the wide world and Did Things.

We came home and had a nice dinner. The whole house sat down to play a game of Scrabble. My friend’s partner had come home and passed out after a long day of work and had sort of woken up when we decided to go get ice cream. And that’s when my friend’s water broke.

After a little bit of…is that what we think it is…?!!! And some phone calls to the midwife and the doctor, we piled into the car and drove to the hospital.

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The Zen birthing suite had a Chakra crystal positioned over the bed.

Her sister’s boyfriend and I were sitting in the waiting room while they took her back for the doctor’s initial check. He’s known my friend for a little longer than I have. As we sat there, anxiously waiting, I looked over at him and asked him if all those years ago he would have ever pictured himself sitting in that waiting room, dating her little sister and having her as such a huge part of his life?  He had to laugh as he gave an emphatic “No.”

I met my friend twelve years ago as a college freshman. I took an Intro to Women’s Studies class during my first summer in school. I was painfully shy back then. I would sneak into classes and do my best to hide, hoping not to be noticed. I remember the first day of class doing just that. As I sat in the back, this large, vibrant Valkyrie walked through the door and seemed to suck all the light out of the room. She was tall, had a mohawk and wore outfits that I couldn’t have come up with in my wildest dreams. She always had an opinion and was never afraid to speak up. I was fascinated and smitten and a little bit afraid all at the same time. And thus did I get a glimpse of what the future had in store for me.

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Twelve years ago I wouldn’t have ever pictured myself sitting in that waiting room either.

So many things have changed over the last twelve years. We were all different people back then and yet, here we were.

The next twelve hours passed in a misery of contractions and annoying nurses who didn’t seem able to leave well enough alone. And finally, they had to make the decision to do a C-section.

We all piled back into the waiting room and kept waiting. It was a busy night and there were three other families holding similar vigils. We shared stories and reminisced about both my friend and her partner and how far we had all come: through hard times, through good times.

My friend’s baby girl was born later that evening and I finally drove home after 36 hours without sleep, in time to kiss my own partner at midnight before passing out.

The next day I was sitting there, holding that teeny tiny perfect little thing that my friends had created together and I was overwhelmed. It reminded me that life keeps going. No matter what you’re dealing with or going through, there are still new babies being born. Sometimes it’s downright obnoxious how life just refuses to stop and pause for our own battles and upsets. She reminded me that there is light at the end of the tunnel and that there is still joy and beauty out there to be had.

So I’ll take her entry into the world as an omen for my New Year. How can any year be bad after such a start? And I somehow doubt that there will be any other New Year’s Eves that will be quite as exciting in my future.

Happy New Year!

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