St. Lucy's Day is currently most often associated with Sweden, one of the celebrations of light in the midst of winter's darkness. Little Christmas, or the Feats of Saint Lucy, is a favorite advent celebration. In the early morning, the Lucia Bride, usually the youngest daughter, is dressed in a long white gown with a myrtle or bilberry crown and lighted candles. She awakens the family, often bringing coffee and tea, and braided Lucia twists, flavored with saffron and cardamon. After the family is served, she visits the barns, taking food to the animals.
In addition to the home celebration, the young girls attend services at the church dressed in their lighted crowns. St. Lucy represents the promise of the light in the darkness and the sun's return.
Saint Lucy is the patron saint of the blind and those with visual challenges. Lucy was born in Syracuse, Sicily in the 3rd century. She was born to wealthy Christian parents and at an early age she secretly vowed to remain a virgin and serve God by helping others.
Her father died when she was young. When she came of age, her mother arranged her marriage to a pagan but Lucy rejected him. It was the time of the Diocletian persecutions and when her suitor denounced her as a Christian, she seemed destined to death by burning or life in the brothels. Her fate was to be martyred by a sword through her throat.
In another story she escapes the marriage by tearing her eyes out in frightful desperation. She is often depicted carrying her eyes on a tray.
Miraculously, her sight was restored and she was able to serve God and mankind as she has intended. She is celebrated for giving sight to the blind, food to the hungry, and light to the darkness. The name Lucy comes from the root word Lux, meaning light.
Herbs associated with St. Lucy's Day
Saffron Myrtle Dill Goldenrod Bilberry
St. Lucia's Saffron Braided Bread
I teaspoon saffron, soaked in 1 cup boiling water for 10 minutes. Let cool
2 packages dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
4 T softened butter
3 T sugar
1 teaspoon salt
I cup slivered almonds
1 cup dried bilberries (blueberries) or raisins
5 to 6 cups unbleached flour
1. Prepare saffron.
2. Dissolve yeast in water.
3. Mix the butter with eggs, sugar and salt in a large bowl.
4. Add milk to butter and eggs.
5. Add almonds and dried fruit
6. Stir in saffron mixture.
7. Add flour gradually and stir with wooden spoon until it is is smooth and forms a ball.
8. Place on floured board or counter and knead until smooth - about 5 minutes.
9.Put into a greased bowl, turn it over and cover with a towel in a warm place until double, about an hour and a half.
10. Punch down dough, divide into 3 sections. Braid and form into a circle shape.
11. Place on cookie sheet and let rise until double - about 30 minutes.
12. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
13. Bake about 30 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.
14. Remove from oven, cool and ice.
2 cups confectioner's sugar
1 teaspoon almond extract
Combine and gradually add water until it is the consistency of icing.
Drizzle on to bread.
Decorate with slivered toasted almonds and/or dried fruit if desired.
Top with candles
Gifts from Pine
Pine is often used in protective wreaths during the holiday season. Pine replaced the dead black chicken which was once hung on doors to discourage witches from entering. They were honor bound to count every feather before they could go inside. Thankfully, pine needles replaced the feathers, undoubtedly more fragrant than rotting poultry!
Witches have very active minds and often get distracted and lose count, so instead of starting over, they will probably go next door. (You may want to advise your neighbors to get a pine wreath.)
I, on the other hand, like witches - the term comes from Wicca meaning "wise one' - so I don't bother with pine on the door. It is handy inside however, as the fragrance purifies and refreshes the air and discourages illness. The evergreen needles are said to ensure continual joy! You may want to consider incense, instead of, or in addition to, the fresh pine boughs!
Amber -Pine's Gift of Golden Sunshine Energy
Wheat and roses are also associated with St. Barbara.
"Barbara, the Saint, was elected of God,
She gave her bread to the poor,
Her miserly father rebuked her
And threatened her with his sword.
When he caught her with bread in her lap
She cried unto God in her fear,
God turned the sword in his hand
Into a crochet needle.
When here father demanded to see
What she concealed in her lap,
She cried unto God for help
And the bread in her lap turned to roses."
~ Translation from The Syrian
The crusaders are credited with bringing gingerbread to England in the Middle Ages. The first recorded recipe is dated 1390, with instructions to soak ginger, honey and breadcrumbs to produce a 'bread'.
Queen Elizabeth 1 was the first to shape them into the image of 'gingerbread men' to please her court and dignitaries. They were often elaborate with intricate design and gold leaf.
Their popularity grew and the were sold at fairs throughout the mid 17th century. A gingerbread seller is featured in Ben Johnson's play, St. Bartholomew's Fair.
The Gingerbread Boy was immortalized in St. Nicholas Magazine in May, 1875 when a childless woman baked a gingerbread boy for her husband, but he runs away saying,
"Run, run, as fast as you can.
You can't catch me, I'm the gingerbread man."
Gingerbread men are still popular today and the dough has been used to bake almost everything imaginable, with a few examples below.
Mycala's Occupational Therapy Department at Towson University moved into a new facility and apparently it is dark and dank, so she took in some of the collages I made a few years ago to brighten the space. There is a lot of enthusiasm and it has inspired me to return to collage. Thank you Mycala!
If you've been following my blog, you know I created over 200 watercolors of herbs for my Enhancing Your Life with Herbs course. They were to help people identify specific herbs - not for art for arts sake. I love herbs and they were fun to create, but I miss the whimsy and color of collage.
So these are some of the collages from my Reptiles and Amphibian series in Mycala's office, and they have inspired me move on to two news series. One will be jazz and the other an under water series.
Note: I average about 3,000 - 4,000 hits a day but when I wasn't posting at all, I got 18,000 hits. I think I've learned the secret of increasing my followers - don't post anything for weeks! Ha!
My expectation certainly isn't that people nurture and cultivate it. Actually, the plant has done well on its own for centuries without any coddling from gardeners. It's just that anytime the wrath directed at a plant eliminates the appreciation for its benefits - and it does have benefits - my first instinct is to guide them to look from another perspective.
If we look beyond the label 'weed', we'll find a plant rich with history, health benefits and more.
Poke has been used in Chinese medicine, Appalachian folk medicine, attributed to healing cancer, arthritis, and Lyme disease. A folk cure for arthritis is to swallow one berry a day, fresh or dried, I am NOT recommending this, but have a friend who swears by it. The poison is said to be contained in the seeds so if you don't chew them and release the poison, they pass right through.
Corrina Wood, founder and director of Southeast Wise Women, gives a wealth of additional information on using poke for medicinal purposes for any who are interested.
The berries were used to make ink for the draft of the Declaration of Independence, I've made the ink to use for journaling as well as painting, (recipe below) and the color is exquisite! It has also been used as a dye. Few colors rival the beauty of poke.
In my all of my courses, whether Enhancing Your Life with Herbs, Illustrated Journaling, Mosaics and Kaleidoscopes, A More Creative You and others, I encourage people to consider a creative approach. An interesting challenge for poke is to write a poem or a song about it. You can write your own, or if you prefer, you can listen to Tony Joe White's version!
Tony wrote Polk Salad Annie, and Elvis made it famous. Ok, not as famous as Love Me Tender or Jailhouse Rock, but there are some who know and love it. I'm one of them. It's on this site - see Mabon, Poke and Elvis, or just do a google search. I have no idea why it isn't one of his best known. Actually, Elvis doesn't even know it very well - he had to use a cheat sheet when he sang it. Who but the King could get away with that?
In the song, polk (poke) salad is gathered - oh, here. I'll include the lyrics below.
Tony Joe White
If some of ya'll never been down south too much
I'm gonna tell you a little bit about this
So that you'll understand what I'm talkin' about
Down there we have a plant that grows out in the woods
And in the fields looks somethin' like a turnip green
And everybody calls it polk salad, polk salad
Used to know a girl lived down there
And she'd go out in the evenings and pick her a mess of it
Carry it home and cook it for supper
'Cause thats about all they had to eat, but they did all right
Down in Louisiana, where the alligators grow so mean
There lived a girl, that I swear to the world
Made the alligators look tame
Polk salad Annie, polk salad Annie
Everybody said it was a shame
Cause her momma was a workin' on the chain gang
(A mean vicious woman)
Everyday ?for supper time, she'd go down by the truck patch
And pick her a mess of polk salad, and carry it home in a tow sack
Polk salad Annie, the gators got your granny
Everybody says it was a shame
Cause her momma was a workin' on the chain gang
(A wretched, spiteful, straight-razor totin' woman
Lord have Mercy, pick a mess of it)
Illustrated Journal Page - Poke
Kinetic Sculpture Race
On Saturday, May 5, we headed to the harbor early to see the start of the kinetic sculpture race, followed by lunch at Marie Louise Bistro and a stroll through historic Mt. Vernon for their annual Flower Mart.
Baltimore's Visionary Art Museum's annual kinetic sculpture race - "a race through Baltimore of wacky, imaginative, TOTALLY HUMAN-POWERED WORKS OF ART, DESIGNED TO TRAVEL ON LAND, THROUGH MUD, AND OVER DEEP BALTIMORE INNER HARBOR WATERS, constructed out of used bicycles, gears, and parts, created by a lunatic genius who tinkers around in the garage or backyard.
This is just a small sampling of the delights in Jim Thorpe. I've narrowed the number of photos down by focusing on all things Alice in Wonderful!
The Paper Moon Diner
Admittedly, there is truth in that statement, and yet it disturbs me to see only one side of multifaceted city, so rich with warm and wonderful people, history, inventions, gardens and parks music and the arts . . . . It reminds me of a fable I read years ago.
The Blind Men and the Elephant
~ John G. Sake
To learning much inclined,
Who went to see the Elephant
(Though all six of them were blind),
That each by observation
Might satisfy his mind.
The First approached the Elephant,
And happening to fall
Against his broad and sturdy side,
At once began to bawl:
God bless me, but the Elephant
Is very like a wall.
The Second, feeling of the tusk,
Cried, "Ho! What have we here?
"My mission is
to help others see and cherish the beauty,
romance and treasures within and around them
that are often dismissed or completely overlooked."
Do The Write Thing
Fashion And Fabrics
Lessons From Nature
Pay It Forward
Take The Rose Instead
Mikell is a writer, artist and professional treasure hunter, finding the greatest treasures in the wonderful people who enter her life!