Tiddley-Bits tea

Tiddley-Bits tea

Friday, 29 October 2010

{all hallow's eve}

I've been preparing lectures on the danse macabre & themes of death in medieval manuscripts & incunabula, which became quite popular in the Middle Ages. They seem appropriate with Hallowe'en approaching in a few days.

{Jean le Noir, The Three Living and the Three Dead, Prayer Book of Bonne of Luxembourg, c 1345, Met}
 Some scholars have seen this preoccupation with death linked to the plague or Black Death which killed an estimated 1/3 of the population.
Death, however, soon became fashionable in the courts in the fourteenth century. It was celebrated in courtly poems and pageants, it was also celebrated in towns & cities where the theme of the Dance of Death (Danse Macabre) became popular.
Skeletons lead the different orders of society in a ghoulish graveside gambol, most famously in a series of wall paintings at the Cemetery of the Innocents in Paris (now lost), but probably similar to these paintings at the Abbaye Chaise Dieu.
These motifs were then taken up in incunabula, or early printed books, where all levels of society should be on the lookout for death:
 I have to admit, I love Hallowe'en. As kids, we'd spend weeks planning for the big day. We'd hunt the local second-hand stores to find the starting-point of a Hallowe'en costume and then my Mum would spend weeks at the sewing machine putting our creations together. 5 girls--you can imagine there was a lot of sewing to do! We had great old trunks (see my post of trunks) that we'd fill up with all of our costumes. These wouldn't just sit there unused after Hallowe'en, but we'd use them throughout the year. Like the March sisters in Little Women, my sisters & I would put together plays whenever our grandparents came over, or whenever we'd feel like putting on a play.

{my sisters & cousins playing dress-up (I believe I was too little for this one)}

I love the idea of a masked ball. I've been a nomad for the past few years, but the next time I'm settled in a home for a while, I'm definitely going to put on a masked ball for Hallowe'en.
Don't you love these masks from Venetian carnival?

I actually really like the images from the Commedia dell'Arte, a form of theatre that emerged in the early modern period, in which masked individuals performed, often in an improvised manner. Actors, in general, performed outdoors in temporary venues, but it soon became part of courtly entertainment. Stock characters were often used to characterise various levels of society and actors usually wore masks.
{these are by a French artist, Jacques Callot who published them under the name, Balla di Sfessania. This is a Neapolitan dance, but it draws from the stock characters of the Commedia dell'Arte. Images from Giornale Nuovo}

 Or some other prints of Commedia dell'arte:
I came across these costumes for pets on Etsy. I honestly couldn't stop laughing at some of these inventive costumes. Here are a few to give you a chuckle:

{this cat looks really pleased}

{scary looking shark. all from Etsy}

So how about decorations for your home? Last year my sister had just moved into her new home & there was Styrofoam lying around the basement. We got crafty & we got witty & made these fantastic tombstones (you need to read them to see how really witty we are):

{my sis hard at work, digging up the 'graveyard'}

{a friend of ours was actually the mastermind behind this one}

{ooooh spooookey!!!}

{you've got to check out the captions on these tombstones}

{'graveyard' helpers}

check out these great ideas from Odeedoh

These pumpkins are absolutely beautiful:


During grad school at McGill two of the profs in our department used to put on a fantastic Hallowe'en party. We'd all get dressed up & have loads of fun. We'd always have drinks at my place before the party:
{me as Audrey in Breakfast At Tiffany's chez moi}

{me as a cat}

{don't you love these 1920s costumes??}
{absolutely love these old vintage hallowe'en greetings]

{poor mice!}

{this one is highly freaky & disturbing all at once}

 I did French Immersion and a staple of my education was Telefrancais. To this day I remember the song about the skeletons in the forest "qu'est-ce que c'est, qu'est-ce que c'est, c'est nous partout dans la foret!"
 You can watch the episode here.
and of course, I can't leave out Matt Maxwell's "C'est l'Hallowe'en". You can listen to it here.
Have fun trick or treating, or giving out candy, & most of all, remember to be a kid & get excited about all hallow's eve!
From the Danse Macabre:
O créature raisonnable
qui désire vie éternelle,
tu as ici doctrine notable
pour bien finir vie mortelle.
La danse macabre rappelle
que chacun à danser apprend
à homme et femme est naturelle,
la mort n’épargne ni petit ni grand.

O prudent creature
Desirous of eternal life
Here is a remarkable doctrine

How to terminate your mortal life
The Dance of Death reminds us
That everyone must learn the dan
Man or woman it is all the same
Death spares neither small nor large.

1 comment:

  1. I was tempted to wear the Venetian mask you gave me this Halloween but was worried about it getting wet.

    What is with that kid carving his pumpkin with a knife in the retro ad??? Dexter here we come....