St. Patrick wasn't Irish, he wore blue, not green and there were no snakes.
But there were vampires and leprechauns and witches. Oh my!
In celebration of St. Patrick's Day, I'm using my alphabet prompts to learn more about all things Irish. I'm only doing one or two topics per letter, even though I can think of many more for some.. Even so, be warned. This will be a long post. Happy St. Patrick's Day!
A - Abhartach - the Irish Vampire
Let's start with something light and fun! Ha!
A is for Abhartach, the Irish Vampire.
Even though Dracula, the character created by Bram Stoker, is most often associated with Transylvania, in reality he may have been based on an Irish king, Abhartach. He was said to be a dwarf and considered to be evil and feared by all who knew him.
He was a very jealous man and was suspicious of his wife, convinced that she was having an affair. While spying on her from a high castle window, he fell to his death. The entire kingdom was relieved.. They buried him upright, apparently the correct burial position for royalty, and enjoyed a peaceful night's sleep. One. Just one.
Because the next day, he rose from the dead, and demanded that all of his subjects slit their wrists and drain their blood into bowls. Well, you can imagine they were upset, so they traveled to the next village seeking help from another king, Cathan, who came, killed him and buried him once more.
You guessed it. Up he came, ready for yet another snack.
This continued until Cathan decided to seek help from a saint who explained there was no way to kill someone who was already dead!
His suggestion was to bury him upside down, cover him with thorns and ash branches, and top it off with a huge boulder. As far as we know it worked, and peace returned to the kingdom. He served as inspiration for Stoker's Dracula, and all lived happily ever after!
B - Banshee
A banshee is a terrifying, wispy, floating specter with a piercing scream who warns of a coming death in the family. First reports were in Ireland in the 8th century. This alarming figure, usually female, varies in age from a young maiden to an old woman. Some families were reported to have their very own banshee, possibly having been a family member who had passed. They were known for their keening, mournful singing and wailing, as they lamented the death of loved ones.
C - Children of Lir
,King Lir, Bobd Derg, was left with four motherless children, one daughter and three sons, when his wife Aoibh, the queen, unexpectedly passed away. The king decided to marry Aoife, his wife's sister,
Red is the featured color in this week’s Exploring Rainbows course for the Renaissance Institute, Notre Dame University of Maryland. We’re immersing ourselves in the color red - exploring how it is used in art, advertising, language, songs, fragrances and flavors, sports, superheroes, cartoons and characters, legend and lore and more! How fortuitous that both Chinese New Year and Valentine’s Day fall in this week’s calendar! Join us if you’d like and make red your focus for the week.
Put on your rose colored glasses and consider looking at the world in a different perspective this week. In our rainbow course, Exploring Rainbows, I've encouraged the class participants to seek out red.
Red is the color of extremes. It stimulates, excites and inspires action. It is associated with love and joy, passion, sex, anger and rage. Spending some time to learn more about the color can unfold in a variety of ways. I'm calling their homework "Homeplay". There are a number of ways to play. Join us!
1. The first is by simply being observant. Look for red in advertising logos, clothes, foods, in movies and television, internet posts, sports teams. Notice super heroes, cartoons and mascots dressed in red. Listen for references to the color red in songs and in phrases and quotes. Look for references to red in other cultures, fairy tales and fables, religious and spiritual association. Be aware of how red is used in art - fine art, crafts, mandalas, mosaics, stained glass.
2. The next level of participation is becoming actively involved. Put on your favorite red sweater and the ruby ring tucked in the back of the dresser drawer that you haven't thought about for ages. Go to a restaurant (check to see if they are open and practice safe distancing) with a red interior - you can find one by doing a google search on 'restaurants, red and the name of your town'. Order red foods and look around the restaurant for shades of red.
You can go to a museum or gallery website, purposefully looking for red in paintings, collages and sculptures. When was red used? Was red used more often in certain time periods? Not at all in others? Why? Do certain artists use it more than others? Visit sites or blogs featuring light shows, festivals and fairs, seeking out the color. Are you more likely to find red associate with certain cultures? What are they? Do more research and discover how they view red, currently and historically.
3. Another way to play with red is to become immersed by creating something red! Get out the paints, yarn, or fabric. Gather foods in various shades of red, then play with the fragrances and flavors of red. While you're cooking and creating, play songs with red in the title. Explore a catalogue to plan for your garden this spring and see how many flowers and plants (many plants have red in the leaves) in different shades of red.
Yesterday was our final session for the Exploring Rainbows course. As with many of my courses, the workshop was set up alphabetically to prompt me to think more creatively. We went through the alphabet for each color, as well as the rainbow. The letter U for each color represented something "unexpected". This was the Unexpected reference in the blue section.
And yes, it's ok to be smart!
It seemed only fair that I join you in looking for red, so I attended the Catch a Rainbow exhibit at Rawlings Conservatory. Beautiful shades of red were in the Rainbow exhibit as well as the Mediterranean House, Tropical House, Desert House, Orchid House and Palm House.
After the exhibit, the search for all things red continued with a cheese and salami platter with red wine at Birroteca.
I usually think of pastels when I thing of Easter eggs
but this recipe came up when I was researching holidays and the color red.
The tradition of egg dying has been attributed to Mary, the Mother of Jesus. Mary saw the blood dripping from Jesus's wounds and coloring them red at the crucifixion on Good Friday.
Another version tells of Mary weeping and offering the soldiers at the cross to have mercy on Jesus, and offering them eggs. As her tears fell on the eggs, they became decorated with gorgeous colors and became the first Easter eggs.
Easter eggs are dyed red for Greek Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Churches. The red of the egg symbolizes the blood of Christ, the hard outer shell represents the the sealed tomb, and the cracking of the shell symbolizes the resurrection of Christ.
Recipe for Red Easter Eggs
6 cups water
skins removed from 12 yellow onions
2 Tablespoons white vinegar
1 dozen large white eggs
! Tablespoon olive oil
Combine water, onion skins, and vinegar in a large pot. Bring to a boil. Lower hea, cover, and simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Cool completely and remove and discard skins.
Add raw eggs to dye, bring to a boil, then lower heat to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes.
Cool and rub eggs with olive oil to make them shiny. Store in refrigerator until ready to eat.
In celebration of my workshop on rainbows and St. Patrick's Day, I'm listing a few things I love that are green. Why don't you create your own before looking at mine so I won't influence your unique style! You can listen to Kermit while you write down your favorite greens and i'll see you at the end of the song! You may need to play it a few times so you'll have time to list them all!
A Few of My Favorite (Green) Things
So, my list.
Well, Kermit! and
Oscar the Grouch!
The field at Camden Yards
The Green Doors at Monet's Giverny
Vineyards, fabrics, insects, herbs and gardens . . .
I've pictured a few of my favorites below . . .
. Roger von Oech, author of A Kick in the Seat of the Pants and A Whack on the Side of the Head, shared this perspective from an advertisement for a library.
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
“At your local library they have these arranged in ways that can make you cry, giggle, love, hate, wonder, ponder, and understand.
It’s astonishing to see what these twenty-six little marks can do.
In Shakespeare’s hands they became Hamlet. Mark Twain wound them into Huckleberry Finn. James Joyce twisted them into Ulysses. Gibbonpounded them into The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.
John Milton shaped them into Paradise Lost.”
~ Quote taken from an advertisement to promote local libraries.
One of my favorite approaches to creating trainings is to use the alphabet to shift from a predictable list to concepts I might not consider. For example, simply listing the colors I plan to cover in my Exploring Rainbows course (Red, Yellow, Orange, etc.) tends to limit my thinking.
I used the alphabet to capture memories from trips, ideas for articles, brainstorming gift list, planning my garden, visits to museums, my annual gratitude lists, and in this case, workshop concepts.
So for each color of the rainbow, I'm planning to use examples of
Then there are Fairy tales and Folk lore, Gemstones, Global interpretations, Quotes, Songs, Symbolism . . . right now I have 3 or 4 topics for each letter. Six weeks will barely be enough time to cover everything!
The next time you're brainstorming ideas, write down each letter of the alphabet and see what kind of associations occur to you that might not have otherswise! And if you're really feeling industrious, see if you can arrange those 26 little marks to make another book to add to the Library of Congress!
"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."
Mikell is a writer, artist and professional treasure hunter, finding the greatest treasures in the wonderful people who enter her life!