Don’t Look Back

Dead things…dead things everywhere! It is that time of the year when the veil is thin and it is so much easier to walk back and forth between the worlds. Lately, on our walks through New Orleans, we have been finding many dead things.

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Found dead, Acadian Flycatcher, photo by my S.O.

The weather is finally cooling off here in New Orleans and Fall is upon us. My mother sent me this beautiful picture from her garden in Ohio.

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Fate is weaving her web for the new year and it’s time to get ready for the winter.

This is of course the time of year when the Goddess is making her way to the Underworld and it’s hard not to think about Persephone and Inanna and all the other various Underworld Goddess tales we know. The Hades and Persephone myth is probably one of the most well known tales in any tradition or culture and at least here in the US, one that most of us find fairly early on. I grew up loving this story and it has been interesting for me over the years to see how my understanding of the tale changes over time and through aging.

I stumbled across this favorite tumblr meme recently and it always makes me laugh a little.

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The tale of Orpheus and Eurydice is of course an excellent example Hades allowing a soul to leave. Eurydice is bitten by a snake and dies and Orpheus, who loves his wife so much, goes to the Underworld to ask Hades to allow her to come back to life.

(You can find a beautiful reading of Virgil’s Orpheus and Eurydice in Latin here).

I’ve always disliked Orpheus. His inability to not follow Hades’ directions to not look back bothers me. How can you go through so much to give up at the last minute?

Orpheus is impatient and this is his downfall.

Looking at the dead or the divine or the sacred is a taboo in many cultures.

Semele looks at Zeus and is completely destroyed.

Those who look at the Gorgon are turned to stone.

Pysche looks upon Eros and is cast out of her home and away from her husband and she must venture to the Underworld to win her right to her divine husband back.

Lot’s wife looks back at Sodom and is turned into a pillar of salt.

Peeping Tom peeps at Lady Godiva as she rides by and is blinded for his lack of respect.

But why this rule in the case of Orpheus and Eurydice?

It is often believed that if Orpheus had looked back at Eurydice while she was still technically dead, he would have seen secrets that he, a mere mortal, literally couldn’t stand to see and would, like Semele, be obliterated by the sight of such immortal things.

In the mortal world, we find it important to look someone “in the eye.” Anyone who can’t do so, is generally considered to be deceitful or up to no good. So it’s interesting that not looking is such an important part of myth and fairy tale.

There are many recipes for salves to put on one’s eyes to allow you to see fairy. Of course, if the fey figure out that you can see them, there are also many stories of those who use the salves being blinded by the fey who know what they are doing.

It is never good to attract the attention of the divine or magical.

I stumbled across a short video series by Gia Coppola and Gucci for Vogue, the series is a retelling of the Myth of Orpheus and Eurydice using fashion and NY to express the familiar tale.

It’s beautifully done and I love this video series, because Coppola manages to make you understand why Orpheus looks back. In this scenario, I might have looked back too!

 

 

 

 

Aristaeus plays a big role here. In some versions of the tale, Aristaeus fell in love with Eurydice, chasing her so that she is caught unawares by the snake that bites her. Here it’s interesting that Aristaeus is a woman in red, which symbolizes things like love and lust and vanity. She cannot quit watching Eurydice, inadvertently killing the very thing she wants, which is later echoed by Orpheus himself: “Orpheus’s bomber is stitched with the words “L’Aveugle Par Amour”– blind for love. In the film’s last scenes, we hope Orpheus will heed the phrase and keep his eyes off Eurydice, even as we—and he—know that he won’t” (Studeman, 2016). Orpheus is so distraught over losing Eurydice a second time, that he disdains women for all time. Later, the Maenads tear him apart for this hubris.

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I think that one of the things these videos proves is that the old myths are never actually old. They are still relevant to us today and still have many things to teach us, even though things have changed so much between their origins and now.

Don’t look back at the things the gods give us. They bring us only heartache and ruin. The gifts of the divine, especially when we transverse the Underworld, should never be taken for granted.

Don’t eat the fruit of the gods or fairy, unless you’re willing to be entrapped and don’t look at the divine unless you want to lose everything.

During this time of year, when the veil is thin, this is an important lesson to remember.

 

References:

Bonaparte, M. (1954). The fault of orpheus in reverse. The International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 35, 109. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1298189715?accountid=14437

Studeman, K.T. (2016). Gia Coppola’s New Film Takes Downtown Cool to Mythic Levels: A cast of Gucci-clad scenesters animate the director’s Orpheus series. W. Retrieved from http://www.wmagazine.com/culture/2016/06/gucci-orpheus-gia-coppola-lou-doillon/photos/

Mardi Gras Round Up 2016 Part I

Mardi Gras has passed us by once again, but I enjoyed the numerous parades that prove that the Gods are alive and well in New Orleans!

Krewe of Oshun…

Oshun is the Loa of love, sexuality, water and fertility. She is a powerful female presence. The first year I lived in NOLA, I wasn’t overly impressed with this parade. Five years later, this krewe has come a long way! This year they put on a beautiful parade that ended up being one of my favorites.

Their parade was dominated by “goddesses,” beautifully be-feathered and be-jeweled ladies that represented tranquility, love and other feminine qualities.

This parade was also really special because there was a group of Baby Dolls. Baby Dolls were a krewe of African American women whose origins are based in prostitution in the 1800s. African American women were not allowed to work in the legal prostitution district of Storyville and so they dressed up as baby dolls to attract attention. Even after prostitution was made illegal, the Baby Doll tradition continued. The tradition had died out for many years, but has recently been revived by women who are drawn to the history of these strong women.

There were many great sights in Oshun!

The Krewe of Cleopatra was next. This was another favorite. The Krewe of Cleopatra is all female krewe that used to ride on the West Bank. It moved to the Uptown parade route a few years ago and always has beautiful floats. My boss rides in Cleopatra and its always fun when you know a rider!

Krewe D’Etat

Krewe D’Etat’s skeletons are always a fun parade.

 

 

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

St. Anne’s Parade

In 25 minutes, Mardi Gras will be officially over. The Catholics will be in church, Lent will be starting and the rest of us will spend the next few days recovering. I went out today and walked through the Bywater, the Marigny and ended up on Frenchmen St, which is where all the locals go for Mardi Gras. I followed the St. Anne’s parade, a DIY walking parade that starts in the Bywater (right by my friend’s house!) and grows as it walks. People join in and walk together to the French Quarter to start off their MG celebrations.

I am completely exhausted! Enjoy some of the photos I took!

 

From happily tucked into bed…Happy Mardi Gras All!

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All photos copyright of Lauren DeVoe, please don’t use without permission!

A Fast and Dirty Thranduil Crown Project

Wherein I share some of my costuming projects and natter on at you about clay and hot glue…because I want to.

I wouldn’t say this is a how to…since that would imply that I know what I’m doing. But if for some reason you need to make a Thranduil crown, here’s how I did mine. I was super pleased with how it turned out. It was a quick and dirty project and while there are real tutorials out there by much more serious crafters, my few easy steps did what I wanted and needed them to do.

For those of you who don’t know who Thranduil is…Thranduil is the king of the Woodland realm in the Lord of the Rings saga. You know, that place where Bilbo had to rescue the dwarves and smuggle everybody out in wine kegs?

You know…this guy?

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Possibly the creepiest depiction of an elf ever…scarring many of our 80’s childhoods forever.

Or…better yet…this guy…?

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I ❤ Lee Pace SO HARD.

My friends and I do a Randy Thrandy parade group every year. And this year I decided to break down and make myself a crown.

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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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Blessed Samhain!

Today of course starts one of my busiest weekends of the year!

It might be a little cliche, but Samhain is my favorite sabbat and I go out and participate in numerous Halloween activities around the city.

This year, for our costume day at work, I decided to go with Miss Argentina from the movie Beetlejuice. Miss Argentina is literally on screen for about 10 seconds, but she has always been one of my favorites.

Miss Argentina is the receptionist in the Underworld. I think that would be an amazing job to have!

Hades…Arawn…any Underworld Gods/Goddesses out there…I have excellent filing and customer service skills! (Or maybe I shouldn’t tempt that one…?)

Blessed Samhain All!

Miss Argentina

Miss Argentina

Proteus and Orpheus 2015

Muses may be my favorite parade, but I think that Proteus and Orpheus have some of the most beautiful floats. They’re always a little bit Pagan themed as well. I loved this year’s Proteus floats and while I didn’t stay through most of Orpheus due to the rain, their floats are still pretty spectacular as well…

Proteus always starts out with…well, Proteus. Proteus is the Old Man of the Sea, said to be ever changing and therefore able to tell the future.

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IMG_0555IMG_0564I loved the elephant in this one…

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Instead of the usual knights, Orpheus has charioteers.

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*All Photography copyright Lauren DeVoe, please don’t use without permission