Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Sunday, August 9, 2009
The phenomenon of the Red Witch came to my attention after I noticed a common motif in vintage Halloween greeting cards. These images have always served as a wealth of ideas for my mini making and are a little window into folk practices long forgotten in America. Halloween now is much associated with children or horror movies. In the past, the American holiday was an adult affair with many romantically related games… sort of like a spooky Valentines day. Well, that’s a subject for another day.
Back to the Red Witch. In these vintage images this figure is often a whimsical young girl with her kittens and jack o’ lanterns. She may have red curls, a red hooded cape, or a red cone hat, which at the time was not always pointed but looking more like a pilgrim’s hat. The little Red Witch was a beneficial and sweet natured figure in contrast to the dark hag beings.
Another aspect of the Red Witch is the Sexy Sorceress. This is possibly a more modern incarnation, taking on the less than impure attributes of the Scarlet Woman. Red is danger, fire, change, blood, and fierceness. This is the magical practitioner in the bloom of her womanhood who bends others to her ways. Often the secret mistress of a king, she helps him toward his own goals but ultimately exacts a high price. This version of the Red Witch can be quite fierce, although not necessarily evil. One of my favorite portrayals of this was Tia Carrere as Akivasha in the uhum… less than good movie “Kull”, supposedly the son of Conan played by Kevin Sorbo.
Sci-fi and fantasy books, games, and comics have recycled the Sexy Red Witch stereotype countless times:
Digging deeper in time, the Red Witch ultimately has ancient Gaelic roots. She is Bridget a multi faceted figure in Irish folklore. As an ancient goddess she was variously known as Bhrid or Bridget. From her name are derived the words “bride” and “breed”, terms associated with fertility and family.
This fiery haired lady was the patroness of metal smithing, music, and animal husbandry. Her three fold nature is a common motif of Celtic goddesses, however Bridget was herself trifold rather than being a member of a triple sisterhood of associated beings. Bridget’s priestesses later converted to Christianity and she became a much loved Saint associated with a historical Irish Nun carrying her name. Now her wonders are discussed in terms of ‘miracles’ rather than ‘magic’…
Further investigation produced the Red Witch Hazel plant, Hamamelis intermedia, also called the ‘Red Diane’.
The Roman goddess Diana was said to be a red headed woman of great beauty and wildness, dedicated to the wilderness. Her daughter Ariadne or Aradia was known as the Queen of Witches in Tuscan regions.
This beautiful winter plant resembles their wild red hair, with scarlet or orange blossoms, and has long been associated with witchcraft, midwifery, the land of fairy, & folk medicine. The Red Witch here blends with the Fairyfolk, and she becomes the Autumn Fey.
Ouphe & goblin! imp & sprite!Elf of eve! & starry Fay!Ye that love the moon's soft light,Hitherãhither wend your way;Twine ye in a jocund ring,Sing & trip it merrily,Hand to hand, & wing to wing,Round the wild witch-hazel tree.
Hail the wanderer again,With dance & song, & lute & lyre.Pure his wing & strong his chain,And doubly bright his fairy fire.Twine ye in an airy round,Brush the dew & print the lea;Skip & gambol, hop & bound,Round the wild witch-hazel tree.
The beetle guards our holy ground,He flies about the haunted place,And if mortal there be found,He hums in his ears & flaps his face;The leaf-harp sounds our roundelay,The owlet 's eyes our lanterns be;Thus we sing, & dance, & play,Round the wild witch-hazel tree.
-Elfin Song, by Joseph Rodman Drake (1795-1820)
Links to gardening information: http://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/go/79888/
Links to herbal usage information: http://www.paghat.com/witchhazelblooms.html
Saturday, August 8, 2009
Thursday, August 6, 2009
Maybe you just want to add a few haunting or autumn type details to an existing collection for a seasonal display. In this case, consider an eye catching magical cabinet, desk, or trunk filled with mystical goodies to set the mood. Below is a beautiful magical cabinet by LilWitchy that would be an interesting focal point:
Throw around a few baskets full of spotted mushrooms, pumpkins, spell books, a cat or two and viola! Here is a lovely set of pumpkin displays by Golden Unicorn Miniatures that could frame a front porch or a magical bookcase for instant spooky and autumn appeal!
From here, you can add layers of black silk or mesh across furniture and hanging from drapes or even stretch a bit of faux cotton webbing about. A few high quality artisan pieces will distinguish your collection rather than covering your house in plastic bright orange bits. Consider other color schemes besides the stereotypical orange and black. How about silver and sage or red and gold? All of this can then be neatly packed away when the dark holiday is over.
Here are Etsy Miniature Artists who can help you with this treasure hunt!
CauldronCraftMinis.etsy.com (that’s me !!!)
An easy add that can really give an eerie ambiance to any scene are the variously lit lamps and lighting kits from the Lemax Spooky Town series, found every year at Michael’s Arts and Crafts. Piles of skulls with glowing eyes, street lamps shaped like witches’ hats, or the basic purple or strobe light kits for about $8 to $12 look really great. I usually steer clear of mass produced items in my own collection but Lemax has nice basic lighting sets that don’t require copper tape and boxes to be affixed to your structure. You just pop the battery in the little power box and hide it behind the couch. These are the Lemax lights I use:
If you are interested in trying a more permanent spooky or fantasy collection but aren’t up to a whole dollhouse, consider doing a roombox first. Be creative: your roombox could be made from a faux pumpkin cut open or a cigar box bound to look like a spell book! Turn a large oatmeal container into a castle tower or create a cave scene with paper mache and Styrofoam!
My first attempt at spooky miniatures was this little room box entitled “Hag’s Cabin”. I had a picture in my mind of a little old wise lady living alone in the swamp. It is made from a board kit with a scratch built skull hearth that I constructed out of Styrofoam, stucco, resin, and Halloween plastic skull rings. I made tattered curtains from inked leather and painted the walls and floor in shades of purple and brown with ink running down to simulate age and smoke damage. Then I made my very first spooky accessories! That was in 2006 and the whole piece sold on eBay.
Another option is to purchase and build the smaller Greenleaf Haunted House Kit, available for about $38 through various dealers online, hobby shops, and toy stores. The official Greenleaf site for the kit is http://shop.greenleafdollhouses.com/Wooden-Haunted-House-Dollhouse-Kit.html
Below are 2 different variations made from the same kit:
If you are doing a whole house or roombox, what theme do you want to focus on? Spooky miniatures are a growing subgenre in the hobby with a lot of potential for new directions. It’s more than simply Halloween decorations with an orange and black color scheme (although I admit to loving all of that). You could create a unique collection based on the Old West, Zombies, Victorian Ghosts, Frankenstein, Vampires, Dark Fairies, Sexy Witches, Egyptian Mummies, Swamp Hags, Pirates or any number of other ideas! Think about the creepy movies you have seen. I personally have developed lines of furniture and accessories for Egyptian Revival, Victorian Gothic, Medieval Wizardry, Vintage Halloween, Dark Fairy, Modern Abandoned, Magic Steampunk, and Rustic Country Witchery.
If you are ready to take the plunge into a fully haunted miniature mansion or castle, there is quite a bit of variety in the actual architecture to achieve an eerie feel. Do you want a quirky brightly colored holiday house, an abandoned home with tattered curtains, peeling paint, and shutters askew, or an elegant gothic mansion with iron gates and ornate interiors?
The Flickr artist Tomdotcom has several brilliantly colored and generally funky dollhouses! http://www.flickr.com/photos/34966479@N02/
Below is a very darkly elegant home by an artist that went by 'subrosa'. I unfortunately can’t find the link anymore so if you have any information, let me know!
I do not spend oodles of money on architectural add-ons. Instead, I buy jewelry findings to dress up window sills and doorways, I build mantles and pedestals with cardboard, balsa wood, and stucco, and I turn action figure bits into sculptures and friezes. Look in wedding supplies aisles for miniature gates, gazebos, and columns. You’ll find interesting gothic papers for walls and books in scrapbook stores along with precut board frames that make interesting architectural niches. Check beading supplies for bits that can be turned into chunky hinges and locks on furniture and beads that can become potion bottles. Consider broken toys, chains, chopsticks, and found natural items. Material for art is everywhere! Well good luck on your spooky journey…