Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Dia de los Muertos

The Day of the Dead, celebrated in Mexico and other usually Catholic countries.

The last time I was looking for images to go with my post about the Mistletoe Bride - I found one or two to do with  Dia de los Muertos. I put them on one side , resolving to use them later.

As it so happens, I have been invited  to a Mexican themed party. Immediately, I thought of Frida Kahlo - though not perhaps like this - dressed as a traditional Mexican bride with intricate lace and flowers on her crown and Diego Ribiera on her mind.

But it brought me back to those Day of the Dead Brides. In Mexico, the orange marigold or Flor de Muerto is thought to summon the dead. People make altars with sugar skulls and other offerings to their dead family members.

This bride seems to have been waiting a while.

And this one's even called the Waiting Bride.

 People make masks and there is a carnival atmosphere, I've read.

 You can dress up like this Corpse Bride by following the link below.
By Crafty Chica
But with all those masks and disguises, how can you know who - or what - is behind them?

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Winter Tales

A little early for Winter Tales perhaps - though recent chilly spring weather has made Winter seem an unwelcome, lingering guest.

I learned through The Bookseller that Orion are bringing out a book of Kate Mosse's supernatural short stories: The Mistletoe Bride & Other Winter Tales

Readers of this blog will know the The Mistletoe Bough is a favourite story of mine.

I will be interested to read how Kate deals with this traditional tale. It has been claimed by different places - but I had always thought of it as Northern. The poem on which the ballad is based though is quite different:

GINEVRA by Samuel Rogers 1822 (Public Domain)

If ever you should come to Modena,
(Where among other relics you may see 
Tassoni's bucket — but 'tis not the true one) 
Stop at a Palace near the Reggio-gate, 
Dwelt in of old by one of the Donati. 
Its noble gardens, terrace above terrace, 
And rich in fountains, statues, cypresses, 
Will long detain you — but, before you go, 
Enter the house — forget it not I pray you — 
And look awhile upon a picture there.

'Tis of a Lady in her earliest youth, 
The last of that illustrious family; 
Done by Zampieri — but by whom I care not. 
He, who observes it — ere he passes on, 
Gazes his fill, and comes and comes again, 
That he may call it up. when far away.

She sits, inclining forward as to speak, 
Her lips half open, and her finger up, 
As tho' she said "Beware!" her vest of gold 
Broidered with flowers and clasped from head to foot, 
An emerald-stone in every golden clasp; 
And on her brow, fairer than alabaster, 
A coronet of pearls.

But then her face, So lovely, yet so arch, so full of mirth, 
The overflowings of an innocent heart — 
It haunts me still, tho' many a year has fled, 
Like some wild melody!

Alone it hangs Over a mouldering heir-loom, its companion, 
An oaken-chest, half eaten by the worm, 
But richly carved by Antony of Trent 
With scripture-stories from the Life of Christ; 
A chest that came from Venice and had held 
The ducal robes of some old Ancestor — 
That by the way — it may be true or false — 
But don t forget the picture; and you will not, 
When you have heard the tale they told me there.

She was an only child — her name Ginevra, 
The joy, the pride of an indulgent Father; 
And in her fifteenth year became a bride, 
Marrying an only son, Francesco Doria, 
Her playmate from her birth, and her first love.

Just as she looks there in her bridal dress, 
She was all gentleness, all gaiety, 
Her pranks the favourite theme of every tongue. 
But now the day was come, the day, the hour; 
Now, frowning, smiling for the hundredth time, 
The nurse, that ancient lady, preached decorum; 
And, in the lustre of her youth, she gave 
Her hand, with her heart in it, to Francesco.

Great was the joy; but at the Nuptial feast, 
When all sate down, the Bride herself was wanting. 
Nor was she to be found! Her Father cried, 
"'Tis but to make a trial of our love!" 
And filled his glass to all; but his hand shook, 
And soon from guest to guest the panic spread. 
'Twas but that instant she had left Francesco, 
Laughing and looking back and flying still, 
Her ivory tooth imprinted on his finger. 
But now, alas, she was not to be found; 
Nor from that hour could any thing be guessed, 
But that she was not!

Weary of his life, 
Francesco flew to Venice, and, embarking, 
Flung it away in battle with the Turk. 
Donati lived — and long might you have seen 
An old man wandering as in quest of something, 
Something he could not find — he knew not what. 
When he was gone, the house remained awhile 
Silent and tenantless — then went to strangers.

Full fifty years were past, and all forgotten, 
When on an idle day, a day of search 
Mid the old lumber in the Gallery, 
That mouldering chest was noticed; and 'twas said 
By one as young, as thoughtless as Ginevra, 
"Why not remove it from its lurking-place?" 
'Twas done as soon as said; but on the way 
It burst, it fell; and lo, a skeleton, 
With here and there a pearl, an emerald-stone, 
A golden clasp, clasping a shred of gold, 
All else had perished — save a wedding-ring, 
And a small seal, her mother's legacy, 
Engraven with a name, the name of both, 

There then had she found a grave! 
Within that chest had she concealed herself, 
Fluttering with joy, the happiest of the happy; 
When a spring-lock, that lay in ambush there, 
Fastened her down for ever!

Will Kate use the landscape of the Languedoc or the Weald to colour her work? I know The Wedding Ghost has more than a hint of the misty Sussex coast about it.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

"What a comfort it is to possess the image of those who are removed from our sight..."

People like to remember those who have died. Before the invention of photography, only the wealthy could afford a portrait. 
The Dead Bride 1804

When daguerreotypes and other early forms of photograph became popular, the dead were not left out.

Corpse bride posed with dead flowers.

Note how the gloves cover up her hands - the fingers would be discoloured due to post-mortem decay.

This girl has been held up by a jig and some clever wiring. This is probably a confirmation dress rather than a wedding dress. Look at her blackened fingers.

These memento mori can be eerily beautiful. Some modern photographers imitate them to create art like Eveline Felice here:

and Mikimatto here:

Of course,  many times the bride wasn't dead at the time of the photograph, but there can still be something unsettling to us about these images.

Cards like this would handed out at funerals.

This porcelain image is on a grave in Chicago.
Certainly they remind us that we too will die.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013


The modern bride often has attendants of many different ages and dressed in different styles. Once she would not have done so. She would try to make all her maidens look the same as herself to confuse evil spirits. The bridesmaids would even have veils like her to set the demons a puzzle.

It could be trouble just being the bridesmaid  without demons. Some superstitions say that if a young woman is a bridesmaid three times, she won't get to be a bride herself - unless she can manage seven outings.
Similarly, a bridesmaid who stumbled on the way up the aisle was supposed to remain an 'old maid'.

And of course, straining to catch the bride's bouquet so you will wed next could lead to an accident.

There are some other oddities. Apparently in Kentucky:
If a bridesmaid goes to bed backward with her hand over her heart, she will be married before the year is out, provided the first man she sees in the morning is an old one.
Another is all the bridesmaids signing the bottom of the bride's shoe - the one whose name wears most will marry next.

In some places, bridesmaids might sleep with a piece of cake under their pillow and hope to dream of their own groom.

Some modern women might like this one:
If the bride wishes to be the dominant partner in the marriage, she must be the first to buy something after the wedding.  The quickest way to do this was to buy a pin from the chief bridesmaid when changing out of her bridal dress into her travelling outfit.
 Yet still I come back to the idea of evil spirits wanting to ruin the marriage - I find this quite haunting.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Something blue

According to the 19th century rhyme, for luck a bride should wear:
Something old, something new
Something borrowed and something blue
And a silver sixpence in her shoe.

An old piece of lace might be used for tradition - though you might want to think hard about who wore it last, perhaps.

The same might apply to something borrowed - can you be sure their marriage was truly happy? If luck can rub off on you, what about bad luck?

There's nothing too sinister about a new dress, but maybe the silver sixpence suggests warding off misfortune. Certainly the knot of similarly dressed bridesmaids and the bride's own veil were meant to confuse evil spirits.

What about blue then? The colour of the sky and the Virgin Mary's mantle - a symbol of purity and faithfulness. There is also a rhyme 'Marry in blue, lover be true' - blue sapphires are often used for engagement rings.

Blue can be cold- photographers use blue filters to give an unnatural feel - and we talk about feeling blue. I'm not sure if that's quite what you want on your wedding day.