Thursday, December 8, 2016

More About Mistletoe

A few years ago I posted a little bit about mistletoe, but there is much more about this small parastic plant that plays a large role in our holiday festivities.

For example, did you know that if you kiss someone under the mistletoe, you are supposed to remove one berry from the bunch? That might be difficult if your bunch is plastic, as much mistletoe is these days. And what if your twig has no berries at all? Does that mean no kisses? And if a single woman should not be kissed under the bough during the winter holiday, she would likely remain single the rest of the year.

Why the kissing tradition? According to this site, mistletoe once offended the gods, who therefore comdemned it to have to look on while pretty girls were being kissed." Poor mistletoe!

Mistletoe Collector
by Adrien Barrere, 1874-1931,
from Wikipedia
According to some sources, mistletoe should only be collected on the sixth night of the sixth moon after the winter solstice--which would make it mid-June, by my calculations. Considering the holiness with which the summer solstice was regarded, this does make some sense, although the twigs would be pretty dry by the time of winter celebrations. The mistletoe was always cut carefully and was not allowed to touch the ground during the harvest, as that was thought to remove some of its magic. As far back as 77 AD, Pliny the Elder noted that Druids cut it with a golden sickle ,althoug later historians question Pliny's assertion.

Keeping the mistltoe from falling to the ground might explain why it was thought to be a cure for epilepsy: since epilepsy made people fall to the ground, and mistletoe not being allowed to touch the ground, the epileptic who carried it was protected from falling. The Druids called mistletoe "all-healer," considering it one of the most powerful of plants. Mistletoe that grew on oaks was considered the most powerful of all bit if the plant touched iron or steel, it lost its power too, just like touching the ground.

The White Goddess website tells this story of the Norse connection to mistletoe: "The Norse god Balder was the best loved of all the gods. His mother was Frigga, goddess of love and beauty. She loved her son so much that she wanted to make sure no harm would come to him. So she went through the world, securing promises from everything that sprang from the four elements--fire, water, air, and earth--that they would not harm her beloved Balder. Leave it to Loki, a sly, evil spirit, to find the loophole. The loophole was mistletoe. He made an arrow from its wood. To make the prank nastier, he took the arrow to Hoder, Balder's brother, who was blind. Guiding Holder's hand, Loki directed the arrow at Balder's heart, and he fell dead. Frigga's tears became the mistletoe's white berries. In the version of the story with a happy ending, Balder is restored to life, and Frigga is so grateful that she reverses the reputation of the offending plant--making it a symbol of love and promising to bestow a kiss upon anyone who passes under it."

Saturday Evening Post cover 1900, from website 
Mistletoe was believed to ward off fires and disasters, and was hung in some homes year-round for this protective property. It could also, some believed, open locks, although how that would work, who knows today? Wearing a twig around the neck was a talisman to ward off evil spirits and witches. Mistletoe would sometimes be burnt, and the ashes carried in a little bag to bring good luck. But some believed that feeding your holiday bunch to your cows would bring a good year for your dairy. Farmers also believed in some areas of Britain that a good year for mistletoe meant a good year for corn (not our kind of corn; in England wheat was called corn, and in Scotland and Ireland corn meant oats.)

In Wales, mistletoe growing on hazel orash trees was believed to have treasure growing under its roots. This apparently came from an ancient legend that under these trees there lived a snake with a ruby inside its head. Over time the snake in this story was forgotten, but the treasure lived on. Interestingly, in early Christian churches mistletoe was banned from the church decorations, and this custom continues to this day in some places.

In the Victorian era, mistletoe really came to the fore as part of the holiday festivities. Washinton Irving captured the spirit of the Victorian Christmas in a few lines: "The Yule log and Christmas candle were regularly burnt, and the mistletoe, with its white berries, hung up, to the imminent peril of all the pretty housemaids."

What to do with your mistletoe once the holidays are over? Don't throw it out! Leave it in your house until the coming year if you want your good luck and good fortune to continue all year.

The plant has found its way into poetry too:

by Walter de la Mare

Sitting under the mistletoe
(Pale-green, fairy mistletoe),
One last candle burning low,
All the sleepy dancers gone,
Just one candle burning on,
Shadows lurking everywhere:
Some one came, and kissed me there.

Tired I was; my head would go
Nodding under the mistletoe
(Pale-green, fairy mistletoe),
No footsteps came, no voice, but only,
Just as I sat there, sleepy, lonely,
Stooped in the still and shadowy air
Lips unseen—and kissed me there.

Some intriguing sources for more on mistletoe:
Encyclopedia of Superstitions by M. Radford, 1949.
Pocket Guide to Superstitions of the British Isles by Steve Roud, 2004.

Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Crankie! Or, Why I've Been So Quiet

I've wanted to make a crankie for a long time, ever since seeing them demonstrated at the Augusta Heritage Workshop in Elkins, WV. So last month I cajoled my hubby into making the box for one. Then I found a song that would work with it, and finally last week I started my part of the crankie.

What is a crankie? It's basically a simple folk theatre, operated manually with a crank that turns the spools that the story is rolled on. It is usually, but not always, lit from behind with a lamp or other light. Larry remembers that his music teacher had one when he was in elementary school. He hadn't thought of it in years, but it came back to him when he watched the online videos for making one. They're older than that, though (even though he'll tell you he's as old as dirt).

According to the website of The Crankie Factory, the "moving panorama" became popular sometime in the 19th century. Some were quite small, possibly made for a child, and eventually there were some so large they could fill a stage. Some of the makers of crankies took their shows on the road. There are examples of crankies in several museums. Henry "Box" Brown, a slave who escaped by literally shipping himself to freedom in Philadelphia in a shipping box, created a moving panorama to tell the story of his escape and took it on the road until the looming battle over slavery made him leave the US for England. There is much more history of crankies at The Crankie Factoy's page.

So I suppose you could say that crankies were the forerunner of motion picture, in a way. I was enchanted with the ones made by Ellen Gozion, Elizabeth LaPrelle and Penny Anderson when they were demonstrated at Augusta. That was three or four years ago so you can see it took me a while to get around to making one myself.

I learned a lot of what not to do on this first attempt, but I am happy enough with the end results. I hope to use this one at some of the Christmas shows that Jeff Seager and I have coming up this month. And I think I'll make another one for this summer's library programs.

I will try to make a video soon of my crankie in action. Right now, I have to wash marker and pencil off my hands, and then practice, practice, practice. Just wanted to show this because I thought it was so cool.

Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

More Marietta Booth Updates

I took a lot of pictures at Marietta--it's been a while since I've done that, usually just grabbing a few as we left. So here's the second installment. Marietta is actually 5 spaces, scattered around the same general area so we have a lot of stuff there.

I don't have a great deal of Christmas items in my booths, and what I've had at Marietta has sold pretty quickly. This little candle tree is by Avon, but cute as can be.

Wexford crystal is a steady seller--not fast, but steady. It's a great go-to for parties because it's plentifyl and if one breaks it's not a great loss. It's also quite sturdy, making it doubly attractive for parties. And at the prices it brings, it's not much more expensive than plastic.

I've been bringing in blue jars as I get them washed up. We found two totes full of them in the cellar when we cleaned it up last month. I've also been bringing in half-gallon jars because we just don't need that size these days with just two of us here.

A little Fiesta, anyone? I don't carry a great deal of it, but it's very popular with buyers. These pitchers might be due for a price reduction as I've had them for a while.

What Blenko I have in the booth is on the bottom shelf in the above photo. A few candleholders, a Blenko plaque, an ashtray--I tend to keep Blenko for my own collection 😉

Below, a shelf full of various collectible glass.

A Fenton lamp, "married" pitcher and bowl set, a pink milk glass vase, two wall pockets, and a lot of et cetera--which is really the lifeblood of a booth.

 Mugs, measuring cups, Jumbo peanut butter jars, polka dot bowls and more.

I added a lot of tumblers to these shelves--some Boscul, some Kentucky Derby mint julep glasses, some tulip juice glasses, and others.

Mixing bowls, which I hope find a home during the holiday baking season.

I kept this checkerboard table for a while, but finally decided to sell it. It's handmade, around 1930-1940 and probably chestnut as gthe ma who made it seemed to use a good bit of that wood in his work.

Pretty glass--I can't resist it! The green and yellow bowls have matching ladles, proably for mayonnaise. People made their own mayo and served it in pretty dishes like this. Nice!

Cranberry etched shade lamps that Larry rewired, along with more pretty glass. What can I say, I'm an addict!

Another recent addition is the wall-mounted coffee grinder. This was an eBay find--needed the lid and the catch cup which I also found on eBay, to make it complete.

 More bowls! And all sizes. My own cabinets are full of bowls too--apparently another addiction.

Tea cups were a good seller, but have been slow lately, Maybe they'll pick up again in spring, for tea parties.

 Uniforms are regular sellers too, so we pick them up whenever we find them. Even newer ones will sell, probably for hunters?

And the shelf of amberina! I do love amberina glass, and have a good bit at my house (all Blenko, which is called tangerine by that company). These are West Virginia glass makers Kanawha and Fenton, along with some Mosser and Moon & Star glass by L.E. Smith.

Well that's the tour for today! The booths are full to bursting, and I hope sales are good during the holiday season. Things tend to slow down in January and February, so we look for a good December to carry us through. Keeping my fingers crossed.

Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.
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