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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Compair Lapin at the Laura Plantation

My mother is visiting me and so of course, we went out to tour the plantations. While we roamed about my favorite, the Laura Plantation, our very colorful guide regaled us with several Br’er Rabbit stories.

The Laura Plantation

The Laura Plantation

As a very little girl, my grandmother used to let me go to my grandfather’s book cabinet and bring out  her antique book of children’s stories. We read these stories again and again. Somewhere, that book still lurks in my grandfather’s book cabinet at my parent’s house, even though both of my grandparents are long gone.  One of my favorite memories remains that of my grandmother reading “Br’er Rabbit and the Tar Baby” to me from that book.

My grandmother was one of those teeny tiny old ladies with perfectly coiffed hair who always wore a fifties style house dress. She went to church twice a week, wore her high heels to do the housework and when she died, she was the oldest living Avon Lady in Ohio. I was the only grandbaby that lived nearby and was spoiled rotten accordingly.

Looking back on it, picturing my grandmother acting out Br’er Rabbit and Br’er Fox is more than a little bit hilarious, but at the time I was simply delighted and would help her act the story out.

Fritz-Eichenberg Uncle Remus Illustration of the Tar Baby from The Wren's Nest

Fritz-Eichenberg Uncle Remus Illustration of the Tar Baby from The Wren’s Nest

If you don’t know the story, Br’er Rabbit is a Trickster and he manages to annoy Br’er Fox to no end.

Br’er Fox comes up with a way to get back at him though. Fox mixes some tar and turpentine and makes a tar baby that he leaves in the road where Br’er Rabbit will find it. He then hides in the bushes to see what will happen.

Sure enough, Br’er Rabbit comes along and greets the Tar Baby. When the Tar Baby doesn’t answer him, Br’er Rabbit threatens bodily harm if the Tar Baby isn’t going to be polite. When the Tar Baby still doesn’t answer, Br’er Rabbit hits the Tar Baby and gets his hand stuck deep in the Tar.

Br’er Rabbit demands that the Tar Baby let go of his hand and when he doesn’t, hits him again with his other hand. This goes on until Br’er Rabbit is entirely stuck in the Tar Baby.

At this point, Br’er Fox pops out of the bushes:

“I’ve got you this time, Brer Rabbit,” said Brer Fox, jumping up and shaking off the dust. “You’ve sassed me for the very last time. Now I wonder what I should do with you?”

Brer Rabbit’s eyes got very large. “Oh please Brer Fox, whatever you do, please don’t throw me into the briar patch.”

“Maybe I should roast you over a fire and eat you,” mused Brer Fox. “No, that’s too much trouble. Maybe I’ll hang you instead.”

“Roast me! Hang me! Do whatever you please,” said Brer Rabbit. “Only please, Brer Fox, please don’t throw me into the briar patch.”

“If I’m going to hang you, I’ll need some string,” said Brer Fox. “And I don’t have any string handy. But the stream’s not far away, so maybe I’ll drown you instead.”

“Drown me! Roast me! Hang me! Do whatever you please,” said Brer Rabbit. “Only please, Brer Fox, please don’t throw me into the briar patch.”

“The briar patch, eh?” said Brer Fox. “What a wonderful idea! You’ll be torn into little pieces!”

Grabbing up the tar-covered rabbit, Brer Fox swung him around and around and then flung him head over heels into the briar patch. Brer Rabbit let out such a scream as he fell that all of Brer Fox’s fur stood straight up. Brer Rabbit fell into the briar bushes with a crash and a mighty thump. Then there was silence.

Of course old Br’er Rabbit was thinking on his feet and escapes, “Then Brer Fox heard someone calling his name. He turned around and looked up the hill. Brer Rabbit was sitting on a log combing the tar out of his fur with a wood chip and looking smug. ‘I was bred and born in the briar patch, Brer Fox,’ he called. ‘Born and bred in the briar patch.’” (To read the full story, go here).

Br’er Rabbit is a character from Joel Chandler Harris’ collection of stories that were gathered from slaves at the Turnwold Plantation near Atlanta right before the Civil War. While Harris himself supported slavery (and in fact interpreted Uncle Tom’s Cabin to be a “wonderful defense of slavery”), the stories themselves are an interesting collection of a mix of Yoruba and Native American folklore and myth. I love the Br’er Rabbit stories because they show how much the many different cultures mixed down here in the South (which of course also resulted in things like Spiritualism, Hoodoo and Voodoo).

Most people are familiar with the Trickster Coyote, but Coyote belongs to the Western side of the United States. In the East, the Trickster is usually regarded as the Hare. The lessons that Br’er Rabbit teaches are about thinking on your feet and using cunning over strength. He doesn’t fight fair and he usually gets away with it.

While Harris himself strongly believed in slavery, Br’er Rabbit is usually seen as a character of defiance against slavery. Br’er Rabbit challenged the social order and stood up to authority. It’s more than slightly ironic that Br’er Rabbit is probably the most remembered character from Harris’s Uncle Remus stories.

Harris’ early folklore is well known; what is less well known is that he was not the first person to translate these stories in the U.S.

That person was Alcée Fortier right here in Southern Louisiana. His Br’er Rabbit character was called Compair Lapin and was written down in the patois of Creole French on the Laura Plantation.

As I’ve said, the Laura plantation is one of my favorites to visit. Not only is it beautiful, but it is an excellent example of the differences between American plantations and Creole plantations. It was also run by several generations of wealthy, successful women.

Fortier

Fortier

Fortier himself was the grandson of Valcour Aime, who was the richest man in the South at that time and grew up near the Laura Plantation. While I’m sure that Br’er Rabbit stories were told all over the South, it’s fascinating to be able to the visit the place where they were first written down and translated.  Sometimes I get so focused on European mythology and folklore, that I forget that I’m sitting the middle of some of the most fascinating bits of our very own American mythology and folklore. Compair Lapin is certainly a character you won’t find anywhere else.

Slavery itself was a terrible institution and the working conditions in the sugar cane fields were inhuman, but Br’er Rabbit is an example of a people that refused to be broken. There is a great deal to be learned from Br’er Rabbit and it is important to remember these stories as a part of our American heritage. Not just for their morals, but for the culture they came from. I’m glad that my grandmother took the time to read those stories to me. When times are hard, it’s good to remember that even the thorniest spots can be places of hope and that there is always a way out. And that it is possible for you to take a bad situation and turn it into one that is advantageous for you.

Br’er Rabbit certainly gets in the last laugh at Br’er Fox, and even though we still suffer from issues of racism and hatred, the plantations are a standing testament to the courage of those that abolished slavery and assured freedom for those of all races.

 

* I realized after writing this yesterday that today (9/17) was my grandmother’s birthday as well as the day that she died. She would have been 102 today.

Quick News Update

This weekend I will be visiting the Gryphon’s Nest campground for their Spring Gathering! Come on by for a wonderful campground experience, a gracious host, good music and some good workshops. It’s going to be a fun little festival for all ages.

The last few weeks have been extremely busy as my partner and I finalize the first draft of our book. We submitted it today to Llewellyn and will hopefully have it approved for publication within the next few weeks!

In the meantime…

Tonight my partner and I will be discussing fairy tales on the Pagan Warrior Radio & Wyrd Ways Live/Pagan Music Project! Chime in at 9 PM Eastern time to hear the show!

You can hear the show by clicking HERE!!!

Or you can check out the Pagans Tonight Radio Network.

Wiccan Groups in New Orleans

I keep getting a lot of hits from people looking for Wiccan groups in New Orleans.

Witchvox is generally the best site to use to find local groups. It provides group listings and contact points for the United States, Canada, the U.K. and Australia. Most established groups have listings here. Make sure to read the ads carefully though and vet the group. I’ve come across several listings from teenagers that say they are high priests and priestesses, even though they admit to no actual training. Use your common sense, it’s still the internet.

As far as I know, in New Orleans itself, there are only two actual Wiccan groups.

My own, Iron and Cypress, which is a coven that practices the tradition Blue Star. We teach traditional, initiatory Wicca. We are a closed group, so you do need to contact us and ask for an invite if you’re interested. We’re open to newcomers, but ritual is held in my home and we do like to meet you before inviting you into such personal space. Many groups will request that you meet with them before being invited to ritual. Don’t be offended if you contact a group and they ask to meet up for coffee first.

And there is The Covenant of the Pentacle Wiccan Church as well, which practices Eclectic Wicca (according to their website). This is a much larger group than my own coven and it is a much more open group. As far as I understand it, they are an actual recognized “church” within the state of Louisiana and because of this, they hold public Circles. You should still contact them before showing up.

If you’re interested in Wiccan groups in New Orleans, these are pretty much your choices. You can also join meetup.com and find The New Orleans Lamplight Circle. This is a local Pagan group with members of various traditions and backgrounds. (There are also several solitary Wiccans in this group). They are an excellent source of the various Pagan groups in New Orleans. Wicca is certainly not your only choice in New Orleans!

I hope that helps!

Update 1/29/14

The Covenant of the Pentacle has split and there is a new Eclectic Wiccan Coven in New Orleans. They are the Bee Hive Coven and they are on both Witchvox and Facebook.

Update 9/19/14

I’ve heard rumors that there is going to be a new Gardnerian group here in NOLA. As I am rather understandably not participating in the community currently, I can’t give you the details, but they are supposedly around.

Attention Louisiana Pagans!

This is more of a quick service announcement before I post a longer blog later tonight.

I am a member of the New Orleans Lamplight Meetup Group. We are working on putting together a Pagan Pride Day (under the umbrella group The Pagan Pride Project) for New Orleans in 2013. We are having our first official organizational meeting this Sunday. I am copying in below the email from our fearless leader Ty. If you are in Louisiana and want to participate, or know someone else who might, please pass this along!

Pagan Pride Days are great opportunities for the Pagan community, and hey…this is New Orleans, we have some big ideas for this. But we need a lot of help!

~ Owl

Hi everyone!  This is Ty from New Orleans Lamplight Circle.  I am sending this email out to every group I know in the Pagan/Vodou/ceremonial magick community in the greater New Orleans metro area.  We are having a meeting on SUNDAY, JUNE 3RD AT 2:15 PM AT THE NEW ORLEANS HEALING CENTER 4TH FLOOR INTERFAITH SPACE (2372 St. Claude Avenue, New Orleans).  This meeting is to discuss plans for a potential Pagan Pride Day in 2013.  We want this to be a big event that involves everyone in the community, so we want your participation as well.This first meeting will cover various topics, like:
1. Purpose and theme of a Pagan Pride Day
2. COMMITTEES!
3. Determining sources of funding
4. Types of activities
5. Potential dates and locationsYour personal and/or group’s involvement is up to you.  We definitely need people to be committee members to handle various parts of the PPD, and we also need co-sponsors (who would fundraise in their own group to bring much needed funds into the PPD budget).  PPD will be under the auspices of the Pagan Pride Project, a 501c3 non-profit organization, so all donations will be tax deductible.

I understand that not everyone receiving this email is Pagan; however, I believe many of us are so interlinked with each other spiritually and socially that it’s important that the Vodou and ceremonial magick communities also “represent” as well.  This day is meant to be a true representation of New Orleans Paganism, and many of us have embraced/incorporated other non Neo-Pagan paths into our practice.  All are awesome and all should be present at NOPPD 2013!!

Some of the groups we’re inviting (though there’s certainly no limit) are: Covenant of the Pentacle Wiccan Church (New Orleans AND Lafayette), Circle of the Tree, Coven of the Gryphon/Gryphon’s Nest Campground, Highland Oak Nemeton, Alombrados O.T.O., La Source Ancienne Ounfu, Voodoo Spiritual Temple, Voodoo Authentica, N.O. Healing Center/Pluralism Project, Temenos ta Theia, LAW/Sacred Paths Community Center/Moondance Circle, Keepers of the Hearth, The Amethyst Cottage, Rose & Antler Coven, Wisteria Temple, House of the North, UU Church (New Orleans AND Baton Rouge), Coven of Moonlight Spirits, Central LA Pagan Assoc., Living Temple of Wicca, Dragon Moon Coven, CenLA Broom and Brew, Mosaic, Coven of the Grove, Circle of the Silver Moon, Mississippi Magick Society, K.C. Perilloux/N.O. Witches Ball, HEX, etc.  We would like to extend the area of the PPD to include southern Louisiana up to Alexandria, and southwestern Mississippi.  Please forward this email to anyone else who might want to participate, as I may not know EVERYONE in the community.
I am asking everyone to RSVP by responding to this email no later than May 31st.  Even if the leaders of certain organizations cannot be present, you can still send a representative in your stead.  If you have questions you need answered BEFORE the meeting, you can reach me at 504-621-0274.  Answers to questions regarding PPD stipulations can be found at www.paganpride.org.I hope to hear from all of you soon!Ty
tubebedubayou@hotmail.com
www.meetup.com/lamplight

Heebie Jeebies in the Swamp!

I had the surprising pleasure of spending most of the weekend at a small Louisiana Pagan festival put on by the Coven of the Gryphon Wiccan Church in Springfield Louisiana (i.e. out in the middle of freaking nowhere Louisiana…aka, the swamp). It wasn’t surprising in that I didn’t realize I would be there, we had known for several weeks. My S.O. was going to perform and we wanted to check out local Pagans.

I had absolutely no idea what sort of festival we were going to walk into. In Ohio, I was spoiled with a plethora of extremely well-known and very large Pagan festivals. Louisiana on the other hand, isn’t known for its Pagan festivals. You can see where I might have been worried; I had horrific images of your typical stereotype Rednecks gathered with their beer cozies, talking about the Goddess as they cleaned their guns. (Not that there is anything wrong with gun ownership! I am, after all, a lifetime member of the NRA myself!)

On Facebook I asked, “Question of the night: What do Louisiana rednecks wear to a Pagan festival?”

The answers that I received were: “Camouflage ritual robes with alligator boots…” and “Overalls with pagan flare buttons”.

And as I was only semi kidding, I think they were only sorta serious too…

Luckily, I found the complete opposite. It was a wonderful little festival all around. It was one of the most beautiful and well cared for camp grounds that I’ve ever been on. The festival itself, held at the “Gryphon’s Nest”, was very small. But the man who ran the event, who had been described to us as the “nicest Pagan you’ll ever meet”, turned out to actually BE the “nicest Pagan you’ll ever meet”.

Mama Madison was there, along with several other Voodoo Houses. Oddly enough, considering that I live in New Orleans, I forget about the prevalence of Voodoo down here. I forget that a majority of the Pagan community here is probably Voodoo. My impressions of the New Orleans Voodoo community is that they do their best to keep the stupid tourists away, at least away from actual Voodoo gatherings. And who could blame them? I’m sure a lot of the people who visit us want to see “real” voodoo, and that they drive our Voduns up the walls, literally and figuratively.  So it’s not often that I am confronted by actual Voduns. Unless you are a member of the community here, you probably aren’t just going to find yourself in a gathering of real Voodoo practitioners in New Orleans itself. (Again, this is the view of someone who hasn’t sought out the Voodoo community here at all.)

I really don’t know much about Voodoo, but then it’s a practice that I’ve never been called too. To me, Voodoo is extremely visceral. When I’m around practitioners of Voodoo, my skin crawls, though not in repulsion. The sort of magic that they seem to practice is always right there. In Wicca, most people seek out their Gods. In Voodoo (from an outsiders perspective at least) this isn’t always the case. It is a very alien culture from what I’m used to. On many levels, because it makes me so uncomfortable, I avoid it.

But let me tell you, when you are out in the middle of the Louisiana Swamp, in the extreme darkness of a hot, muggy Creole night, and Mama Madison’s voice is wailing through the darkness, there is no way to avoid the knowledge that Voodoo is alive and well in Louisiana and is still, very much, a living, breathing, growing religion.

There were a lot of other things going on at this little festival as well. Paul Beyerl, one of the foremost experts on magical herbalogy presented workshops, as did Amber K and Azrael Arynn K, who have written a lot of books on Paganism and Wicca. In fact, Amber K was the first officer of CoG for three years, a major Wiccan network.  Kenny Klein, well-known Pagan musician and author presented a concert and a workshop. Louis Martinie was also there, well-known drummer, tarot card creator and voodoo author. Mama Madison and Spiral Rhythm from PA performed the big concert Saturday night.

Overall it was a wonderful little Pagan festival that deserves much greater attendance. If you get the opportunity, you should definitely check it out.

And P.S. – Always take bug spray with you to the swamp! I learned this one the HARD way.

Louisiana Swamp Sights

These are things you find in Louisiana swamps...an alligator eating a smaller alligator at the Jean Lafitte National Park.