Krewe of Muses 2015

It is that time of year once again and Mardi Gras is literally right around the corner. I actually managed to drag myself out to the Muses parade last night.

Muses has always been my favorite parade. I think it embodies the best parts of local Mardi Gras and while more and more tourists are coming to it, it’s still largely a local crowd. A lot of kids, a lot of great costumes and the Krewe of Muses always does a lot of great things for their community. And they always have the best throws.

My camera and I had a fight throughout the night. It has been awhile since I’ve done any photography, but I got a few good ones that I thought I would share. While I did not get a shoe this year, I was not disappointed by the parade.

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This lady had a truly impressive sign and was ready before the parade started rolling.

The beginning...

The beginning…

The Shriners always lead it off.

The Shriners always lead it off.

This year, the NOLA roller derby girls were the first line of the parade after the Shriners. The Big Easy Rollergirls were a lot of fun!

4 5 6 7 8The beautiful lit up butterflies came next and the official Muses front float.

9 10Next came the Muses Head Shoe and the Honorary Muse of the year. This year it was Sue Zemanick, the executive chef at local Gautreau’s.

This shoe is always very cool.

This shoe is always very cool.

The floats were great this year, though that certainly wasn’t a surprise. The Bathing Muses always start them off and the amazing (and my absolute favorite float ever) the Sirens always finishes them off. This year the riders were as sassy and excited to be out as ever!

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The Bathing Muses

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This was one of my favorite shots of the night. She is holding two shoes, one of which was made to look like the infamous Leg Lamp from The Christmas Story!

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The Shoe! People go nuts over these! Each shoe is handmade and each rider only has a few of them to give out. Outside of the Zulu coconut throw, these are probably the most prized throws of local Mardi Gras.

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Big Throw! This rider was hanging off the side of the float to catch the attention of a friend in the crowd.

13 14 15 17 18 19 20 21 22 24 25 27 28 29 30 32 35 36 41 42 50 51 The Sirens float is my favorite.  54 55Here is an article about the float with some more pictures. One of my favorite descriptions of New Orleans is from this article:

“The city of New Orleans is a very, very seductive place,” said Gisleson over the racket of power saws and spray-paint compressors. “It’s a place where the humidity almost has a personality, where letters open themselves and candles melt without being lit. We wanted to take that whole idea of seduction that is inherent in the Sirens (mythological creatures who lured sailors to their doom) and set it in our hometown.”

This float has over 200 lbs of glitter incorporated into it and it always comes at the end of the parade. When Muses was forming, they originally considered calling themselves Sirens instead. In mythology though, the Muses defeated the Sirens in a singing contest, so the all female krewe decided to go with Muses. To honor the Sirens though, they put them at the end of the parade, right in front of the fire trucks that always bring up the end of a parade and that blare their sirens loudly.

The Circus Arts kids were out and I caught this guy balancing his unicycle on his chin. They are always a fun edition to the parade.

26The Rolling Elvi were out. This is a fun subkrewe that allows everyone to go full out with Elvis! Clockwork Elvis, a popular local band that mashes Elvis and Clockwork Orange, performed with them.

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Throughout the rest of the parade were a lot of crazy fabulous people…

The Noisician Coalition is always a fun jumble of noise and costumes.

The Noisician Coalition is always a fun jumble of noise and costumes.

The Bearded Oysters are always amongst my favorites as well. Katrina Brees started this subkrewe and also created the amazing bikes below. Katrina created the I Heart Louisiana group, which works hard to get krewes to throw environmentally friendly throws.

39 40 43 44This guy was playing with a local band that floated past…

45I always enjoy seeing the Laissez Boys too…

46The NOLA Organ Grinders

47And Bate Bunda too!

48 49 52 53While the ending of the parade was bittersweet for me this year, it is definitely one you should get to and check out. Muses is a great time and just keeps getting better and better as the years go by.

*All photos copyright by Lauren DeVoe. Please do not use without permission!

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Jeanne D’Arc Rides in New Orleans

Last night I went to one of the first parades of the New Orleans Mardi Gras season, the Krewe de Jeanne D’Arc Parade.

Joan of Arc is the patron saint of New Orleans; that should come as no surprise. She was the Maid of Orleans, after all. New Orleans is a very Catholic city, and St. Joan is one of my favorite parts of the Catholic mythos. Joan of Arc’s birthday is January 6th, which coincides with Twelfth Night; a very important night for any city that celebrates Carnival. (This year marked her 60oth birthday).

Joan of Arc statue in the St. Louis Cathedral, NOLA

Joan of Arc statue in the St. Louis Cathedral, NOLA

So why talk about a Catholic saint on a Pagan blog?

Joan of Arc has always fascinated me. Unlike many other feminist icons, it’s impossible to rewrite Joan of Arc as anything other than Catholic. And unlike many other religious icons, we have  many primary sources available to us to tell us the details about her life and death. But what I find the most fascinating about her is the fact that her faith was what allowed her to do the things she did. She was a Believer. At the end of the day, it didn’t really matter what religion she was practicing, or of what entities she was having visions. She did what most Pagans hope to be able to do: She used her visions and discussions with the divine to help her change the world.

Think about it: an illiterate 16 year old girl convinced a King and his veteran generals to allow her to lead their army against an enemy they had been fighting for over ninety years, in a time when women were not allowed to be part of martial life at all. All of this under the religious auspices of a faith that gives very little power to women, even today. And unlike many powerful women of that era, she was not burned at the stake because she was accused of withcraft, but because she was accused of Heresy.

One of the most powerful things I’ve seen done by Priests and Priestesses is the Drawing Down. Invocation of a God or Goddess is an intense experience. When my partner draws down our patron God, his eyes change color, he smells different, and it’s obvious that he is no longer “at home”. This is one of the penultimate tasks of (at least Wiccan) Priests and Priestesses. As a Wiccan, I get to talk directly to my Gods, and this is one of the major things that separate us from other religions. This is, of course, not the only way, and certainly not the easiest, but it is a major part of the spiritual experience of being Wiccan.

Jason Mankey wrote a great blog with his own experiences about this here. He says in the blog:

While drawing down the moon is practically the most awesome think I can conceive of, it’s often absent from a lot of Modern Pagan Ritual. There are certainly groups who still make it a central part of their rites, but that seems more like the exception these days. There are a lot of reasons for this. Drawing down the moon is hard work, a lot of people aren’t ready to do it, and it’s not something you generally see at (open) large rituals. It’s also such an overwhelming experience for everyone involved (Priestess and circle-mates) that it’s generally not a good idea to do in certain (most) circumstances. By its very nature it’s something that requires a well trained clergy.

This is is one of the “secrets” of Wicca that will be lost if we continue to “learn” Wicca from books. This is something a book just can’t really teach you and it is definitely not something I recommend you try if you haven’t had years of training. I’ve only started to learn the very basics of what leads up to this and it is not the sort of work you do lightly.

While Joan of Arc may not have been Drawing Down the way Pagans, do, she was certainly having her own direct experience with deity through her religious tenants. I think anyone who can do this is pretty amazing. And the fact that her story has stood up to the test of history, and is still very present today, is a pretty powerful message about the the need for people who can speak directly to the divine and who can take the message they hear with them out into the world. In this modern era of science and technology, the divine is still with us, and people like Joan of Arc and our priests and priestesses help remind us of our connection to it. I’m glad that I live in a city that celebrates her.

Here are a few pictures from the parade:

Warrior Joan

Warrior Joan

St. Joan and Queen Yolande

St. Joan and Queen Yolande

Joanie on a Poney

Joanie on a Poney

One of the Saints who visited Joan.

One of the Saints who visited Joan.

The Wheel of Torture

The Wheel

Random Dragon

There were many people who carried banners with actual quotes from Joan of Arc

There were many people who carried banners with quotes from Joan of Arc, she said this right before they burned her at the stake.

Angels

Angels

Founder of the parade

Founder of the parade

Random Passerbye

Random Passerby

At the end of the parade, candles lit in front of the cathedral doors after they blessed St. Joan's sword

At the end of the parade, candles lit in front of the cathedral doors after they blessed St. Joan’s sword and moved on down to Chartres to get to the famous statue.

Masking

In New Orleans, we love a good masquerade. Here, costume wearing is pretty standard. Most of us have dedicated closets and drawers and shelves for our costume pieces. Masking is part of our identity. I’ve only lived here two years and in that time, my not already inconsiderable costume collection has grown at least five times larger than it was before.

Of course, down here, masking is tied into Carnival, brought to Louisiana by the French. Mardi Gras was first celebrated in Louisiana in 1699  and other than a few years here and there, the tradition has continued ever since. Most people outside of New Orleans think that Mardi Gras is a single Day event. It’s not. In actuality, Mardi Gras starts the day after Twelfth Night and continues on to Fat Tuesday. It’s also not something that goes on for the tourists: the entire city celebrates for the entire season.

Why are we talking about Mardi Gras when we aren’t anywhere close to Twelfth Night? Because it is Halloween ,and Halloween seems to be the city’s Mardi Gras prequel. While Halloween itself is on Wednesday, the weekend before Halloween is traditionally when we all gather and celebrate in the Quarter. It’s a time of local revelry and of course, masking.

Masking is probably one of the longest traditions practiced by mankind. It has both practical and spiritual uses, and goes back at least 40,000 years. Masking was used in antiquity for many things; ritual persona, sacred dance, theater and warfare.

When you don a mask, you become someone or something else.  You take on a character that is both ‘other,’ and also greater than yourself. As my Significant Other points out, “masking comes from the sacred clown tradition, which is represented by the Fool in the tarot deck. the Fool, the zero card, represents unlimited potential and rebirth”. In New Orleans, we celebrate this potential of the city to constantly reinvent itself moment by moment. The city does this yearly, creating an atmosphere of constant flux and possibility. It’s probably one of the reasons we bounced back from the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina so quickly; the city was able to redefine itself, to strike a new pose, carrying the people within it into its rebirth: it’s used to this sort of thing after all.

There’s a great deal of the trickster spirit in masking. From Coyote to Harlequino, from Loki to Prometheus, Tricksters often take on different personas to go about their business of foolery, which ultimately brings about positive change. Transformation and resurrection, along with a healthy dose of heroic action, are characteristics of the Trickster. Whether or not you like the Trickster, he certainly brings about an often chaotic transformation. When we mask, we’re recreating the actions of the Trickster to change our reality into something greater and better.

As Titus Burckhardt says in his article The Sacred Mask, “It derives from the expression persona itself. We know that in the ancient theater, derived from the sacred theater of the Mysteries, this word designated both the mask and the role. Now the mask necessarily expresses not an individuality—whose representation scarcely requires a mask—but a type, and hence a timeless reality, cosmic or divine”. In this way, the mask transcends itself from being a simple costume, to a whole new identity with many ritual possibilities. New Orleans is a city that ritually masks to transform herself year to year into something new and different each time.

Lady Deer on Frenchmen St, NOLA

Lady Deer on Frenchmen St, NOLA 2012

Burckhardt continues on to say “Moreover, man spontaneously identifies himself with the role that he plays, one that has been imposed on him by his origin, his destiny, and his social ambience. This role is a mask—most often a false mask in a world as artificial as our own, and in any case one that limits rather than liberates. The sacred mask, on the contrary, along with all that its wearing implies as regards gestures and words, suddenly offers one’s “self-consciousness” a much vaster mold and thereby the possibility of realizing the “liquidity” of this consciousness and its capacity to espouse all forms without being any one of them.” When people mask in New Orleans, in many ways they are bringing to bear the sides of themselves that they hide from the mundane world. People mask to become the people of their dreams and imaginings.

Another Deer on Frenchmen St, NOLA 2012

Another Deer on Frenchmen St, NOLA 2012

The idea of a city that masks is not confined to New Orleans. Other cities have Carnival as well: Rio De Janeiro, Venice, Rome, Paris…all of these cities do the same sort of thing and this gives our cities a much different reality than cities that don’t mask. Cities that mask see magic in the world more easily.

Angler Fish and Bubble Wrap on Frenchmen St, NOLA 2012

Angler Fish and Bubble Wrap on Frenchmen St, NOLA 2012

The roots of Mardi Gras lie first in Paganism, but within modern history, within the Catholic celebration of Carnival leading to Lent. The Catholic tradition holds that we each have a dark self, prey to temptation: a shadow-self. Masking ensures people confront their shadow selves. The Jungian archetype says that “The Shadow represents the traits which lie deep within ourselves. The traits that are hidden from day-to-day life and are in some cases the opposite of the self is a simple way to state these traits. The shadow is a very important trait because for one to truly know themselves, one must know all their traits, including those which lie beneath the common, i.e., the shadow. If one chooses to know the shadow there is a chance they give in to its motivation”. Masking brings on a self-awareness of  identity; we mask to confront the shadow, so that the motivation to give into it is much less.

Capricorn on Frenchmen St, NOLA 2012

Capricorn on Frenchmen St, NOLA 2012

I love that my city is a constant celebration of the sacred dance of magic and ritual. While most people who participate probably don’t see it in that light, I, as a Pagan, certainly do. Last night in the Quarter, who knows who I was rubbing elbows with. I’m sure that many of the local spirits and deities join in with the mayhem of our very human celebrations. I see masking as vital to living a healthy life. Being  someone who we aren’t for a night let’s us see the world through fresh eyes. It allows the world to see us differently, and to create a vehicle for the divine to come more easily into our life.

Me on the Saturday before Halloween, NOLA 2012

Me on the Saturday before Halloween, NOLA 2012

And in the end, being able to change personas for a night makes us appreciate who we are even more.