Monday, August 31, 2015

Day of the Dead, as Explained by the Beads and Charms

In Mexico and in Mexican-American communities around the country, it's the Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos), a celebration that honors lost loved ones and those who have gone before.  It closely correlates with All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day on the Catholic calendar.

People commemorate the lives of lost loved ones by creating ofrendas ("offerings": altars and shrines), making sugar skulls as presents for the dead...

... hanging banners made of papel picado ("pierced paper" filigree), decorating with real or paper marigolds, baking pan de muerto ("bread of the dead"), visiting family graves, and maintaining a celebratory atmosphere.

Scholars trace the origins of the modern Mexican holiday to indigenous observances dating back to the Aztec festival for the goddess Mictecacihuatl

The holiday has spread throughout the world in Latin cultures.  Similar observances occur elsewhere in Europe, and similarly themed celebrations can also be found in many Asian and African cultures.

The Day of the Dead celebrations in Mexico can be traced back to the indigenous cultures. Rituals celebrating the deaths of ancestors have been observed by these civilizations perhaps for as long as 2,500–3,000 years.

 In the pre-Hispanic era, it was common to keep skulls as trophies and display them during the rituals as symbols of death and rebirth.

The festival that became the modern Day of the Dead fell in the ninth month of the Aztec calendar, about the beginning of August, and was celebrated for an entire month. 

The festivities were dedicated to the god known as the "Lady of the Dead", who corresponds to the modern-day Catrina. 

In most regions of Mexico, November 1 honors children and infants; deceased adults are honored on November 2. November 1 is generally referred to as Día de los Inocentes ("Day of the Innocents") or Día de los Angelitos ("Day of the Little Angels").  November 2 is known as Día de los Muertos or Día de los Difuntos ("Day of the Dead").

People go to cemeteries to be with the souls of the departed.  They build altars containing the favorite foods and beverages as well as photos and memorabilia of the departed. 

The intent is to encourage the souls to visit, so that they may hear the prayers and the comments of the living directed to them.

During the three-day period, families usually clean and decorate graves; most visit the cemeteries where their loved ones are buried and decorate their graves with ofrendas ("offerings"), which often include orange Mexican marigolds (Tagetes erecta) called cempasúchitl (originally named cempoalxochitl,  Nahuatl for "twenty flowers").

 In modern Mexico, this name is sometimes replaced with the term Flor de Muerto ("Flower of the Dead"). These flowers are thought to attract souls of the dead to the offerings.

Toys are brought for dead children (los angelitos, or "the little angels"), and bottles of tequila ,mezcal, or pulque or jars of atole for adults. Families will also offer trinkets or the deceased's favorite candies on the grave.  

Ofrendas are also put in homes, usually with foods such as candied pumpkin, pan de muerto ("bread of the dead"), and sugar skulls and beverages such as atole.

The ofrendas are left out in the homes as a welcoming gesture for the deceased. Some people believe the spirits of the dead eat the "spiritual essence" of the ofrendas food, so even though the celebrators eat the food after the festivities, they believe it no longer holds any nutritional value.


Pillows and blankets are left out so that the deceased can rest after their long journey. In some parts of Mexico, speople spend all night beside the graves of their relatives. In many places, people have picnics at the grave site as well.

Some families build altars or small shrines in their homes;[ these usually have the Christian cross, statues or pictures of the Blessed Virgin Mary, pictures of deceased relatives and other persons, candles and an ofrenda. Families spend some time around the altar, praying and telling anecdotes about the deceased. In some locations, celebrants wear shells on their clothing, so that when they dance, the noise will wake up the dead;,  Some even dress up as the deceased.

A common symbol of the holiday is the skull (called the calavera), which can be represented in masks (calcas) and foods, like sugar skulls.  Sugar skulls are gifts that can be given to both the living and the dead. Other holiday foods include pan de muerto, a sweet egg bread made in various shapes from plain rounds to skulls and rabbits, often decorated with white frosting to look like twisted bones.

Whether or not you celebrate, take a moment to remember someone no longer with you.  Wishing you all good memories.

Day of the Dead jewelry available on etsy:

and on ebay:

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Happy National Dog Day!

A few quotes for National Dog Day...

“Happiness is a warm puppy.” 
~ Charles M. Schulz 


"A dog teaches a boy fidelity, perseverance, and to turn around three times before lying down."

“The world would be a nicer place if everyone had the ability to love 
as unconditionally as a dog.”

“The better I get to know men, the more I find myself loving dogs.”

"Anybody who doesn't know what soap tastes like never washed a dog."
~Franklin P. Jones 

"Don't accept your dog's admiration as conclusive evidence that you are wonderful."

Dog charms and bracelet can be found here.

Real dogs can be found at the pound.  Go find yourself a forever friend!

Sunday, May 31, 2015

The Three Vegetarian Witches and Their Magic Stones

Once upon a time, there were three witches: Ursula...


... and Medea.

They lived together in a cottage in the woods where they mixed their potions by day and flew reconnaissance missions at night.  Their familiars ~ an owl, three black cats, spiders, a few bats ~ kept them company.  It was a good life.

But there were problems, as there always are.  

The local markets carried limp produce, brown at the edges, unappealing and bland.  There were no local farmer's markets and the ones that could be reached by broomstick had some anti-broomstick ordinances in place.

So Glenda, Medea, and Ursula started to grow their own produce.


They grew herbs for their potions and vegetables for their table.  They grew greens and tomatoes and eggplants and pumpkins and giant zucchini.  Ursula even rigged a particularly large zucchini to fly like her broom.


And life was good.

But there were problems, as there always are.    Ursula became uncomfortable with the notion of using animal parts in their brews.  Not only was it disgusting.  Have you ever tried to remove the eye from a newt?  

It was cruel. Ursula sat down by the cauldron with Medea and Glenda and told them her thoughts.  It turned out that Medea and Glenda has similar reservations.  They no sooner wanted to dice the tongue of a frog than sit through a Justin Bieber concert.

But witches throughout history had used these ingredients.  They were in all the spell books.  There was no Nouvelle Spell Cuisine from which to draw.

How could they make powerful potions without animal parts?

Still, the witches resolved that they would harm no more animals making their brews.  They used their organic herbs and vegetables, and the potions were  cruelty-free.  Unfortunately, they weren't especially potent.

So again they sat down to think while the cauldron simmered and bubbled.


Medea started to pace.  She walked the paths around the cottage, and as she paced, she noticed the various stones around her.  

Some were volcanic, some sedimentary, some metamorphic.  But each was different and unique.  This gave Medea and idea.

She hurried back to the cauldron, rocks in both hands, passing some toads who fled at her approach.


"My dears," she exclaimed.  "Look at these rocks!"

Glenda and Ursula stared, not sure what Medea's point could be.

"Think about it," she said.  "Each rock is different and unique.  Each, it might be said, has a unique power."

Glenda and Ursula had to agree.  They had several volumes about rocks in their library.  "Suppose," Medea continued, "we could obtain the same powers from rocks that we obtain from caterpillar knees.  Suppose certain rocks could grant the same serenity we create with terrapin tonsils.  Would that not be a wonderful advance?"

And so Medea and Ursula and Glenda went to their books.  They read and researched and studied by night.  By day they collected stones and rocks and amulets.  They traded pattypan squash for quartz and rutabagas for aventurine and radishes for jasper.


Finally they were ready to begin their experiments.  They mixed herbs and vegetables and served them in goblets carved of gemstones.  Little by little, day by day, their potions became more powerful, more specific.

Each day was filled with new discoveries.  Each night was filled with new recipes.  Soon other witches flocked to the cottage to learn the mysteries Glenda, Medea, and Ursula had unveiled.  They started to blog about their recipes, and even began writing a cookbook.

Their goal: vegetarian witches with potent organic brews.  They would appreciate it if you would become a follower of their blog.  And maybe put in an advance order on  Amazon for the cookbook.  They'd also appreciate it if you took the pledge: I will not make potions with toad tongue.

Glenda, Ursula, and Medea thank you for your support.

Ursula, btw, is pursuing her own interests, making better flying zero-emissions zucchini to replace brooms.  She tried working with pattypan squash for a while, but found the aerodynamics challenging.


A bracelet with all their endeavors (except the zucchini) can be found here.  And Medea's magical rock charms can be found here.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Thirteen Reasons to Adopt a Black Cat

13.  Black is very slimming.  
Hold your black cat next to you and it takes away 10 pounds.

12.  A black cat is a perfect companion for a rousing game of Hide and Seek.

11.  A black cat can help you celebrate your inner Goth.

10. You'll save $$ on their Halloween costumes.

9. You can always find black cats in the snow.

8. You can't tell if they're dirty.

7. Black cats match any decor.

6. A lint brush isn't required for a black-tie affair.

5. In many cultures, black cats are considered lucky.

4. Black cats are like onyx, a beautiful gem.

3. Hey, they don't care what color your hair is!

2. Love knows no color.

And the number one reason to adopt a black cat...

1. Black cats are the least likely to be adopted.

Black Cat Eyeglass Lanyard up for auction on eBay.
Proceeds will be used to buy cat fud.
My cats thank you.