One week ago I took part in the second Samhain Celebration, hosted by the House of Inkantation, at The Londoner in Gotha. I attended bleary-eyed yet exited. I had worked until the very last minute on the artworks and merch, which included ink drawings of my sigilla magica, samples and glass jars with my self-made incense blends, the last Teufelskunst rosaries, postcards and the original art I had done for German doom band Werian.
The House of Inkantation folks prepared again a unique stage design, which was crowned by a horse skull, into which G. Bergfex of Kvlt&Knochen had carved and imbued with blood the official Samhain Harvest Seal. On the stage performed Rim Runa, Werian, Forndom, Sun of the Sleepless and Malokarpathan. Another special treat were the dedicated wooden boxes pyrographed by C. & M. Falkenstein.
My company, the photographer Anne Ida Helmer, has set herself the goal to document me for a photo series – by all means not an easy task. But I was glad to have her around. We spend the whole weekend in Gotha, touching base and forging future plans. It was nice to finally meet some of the people in person, whom I had done artwork for, and to get to know new faces. I was overwhelmed by the support and interest in my work. This made me forget the sacrifices of the past weeks. It was also refreshing to get to witness new music, bands I had and had not heard of before. I come out of this gathering with new art commissions, possible participation in new events and more.
With the arrival of autumn and in view of the last warm weekend for this year, I am delighted to share some seasonal musings and the most recent shop news with you.
As I am typing, my hands smell of fragrant cempasuchil flower… the day before though they were still sticky from the self gathered pine resin. Both are ingredients in incense blends individually dedicated to the season’s various feast days.
“End of Summer”
Samhain means “end of summer”. The Gaelic festival marked the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter. Today it is celebrated on the night between October 31st – November 1st. It is also associated with St. Martin’s day, November 11th. Some also connect it with the midpoint between the autumn equinox and the winter solstice (or the nearest full moon), when the ecliptic longitude of the Sun reaches 225 degrees.
Samain is also the name of the Celtic god of death, who from this point on ruled over the land, while the goddess of vegetation was forced to decent into darkness until the coming spring. Her parting is accompanied by the honk of the geese leaving for the South. Any herb harvested after this point would be considered harmful, save for the grey mugwort. During Samhain the doors to the spirit-/ underworld opened, and the spirits that would enter, were not always friendly. In some tales, spirits of darkness and chaos (such as the Irish Fomorians and the Crom Cruach) would be given human sacrifices.
Rural people’s survival depended on the harvest. The fear of loosing the harvest, fierce autumn storms, the long nights etc. was real. It was essential to secure the harvest and protect the home, barn and family. It was custom to cleanse and protect the home by burning herbs. Herbs associated with protection and healing, as well as the opening of the gates to the spirit world, are hence part of my Samhain incense.
From the need to protect oneself may also have sprung the latter-day custom of placing candles in hollowed out objects. Readily available were turnips or pumpkins, then turned into figurative lanterns sporting demonic grimaces. Similar to the scarecrow, the lantern was to ward of the ‘evil’ and at the same time its flame lit up the long nights. This “light in the dark” is embodied by the amber, fossilized tree resin. Amber is called Bernstein in German, from Low German börnen, meaning “to burn”. The Greeks knew it as ḗlektron, from ēléktōr, meaning “shining sun”.
Samhain also marks the time when deciduous trees have shed most of their leaves. The leaves fall to the ground, decay and nurture the cycle of life. The wood keeps men warm, the bark heals. The evergreen conifers deliver in addition aromatic resins with cleansing and healing properties. An important part in this incense is thus the rosy red resin gathered from pine trees in my area, as well as fragrant juniper wood and needles from my own garden.
When burnt, the blend develops a strong white smoke and is best used outdoors or in a well ventilated area. If used indoors, air the room and then enjoy the scent, which will last for days.
Contains: amber, juniper needles and bark, mugwort, oak bark, pine and fir resin, rosemary, sage, thyme, vervain
Use: Use this incense blend for cleansing, healing, protection and communication with the spirits. Its fragrant ingredients evoke in particular the spirits of the wild/ sylvan realm and may aid in re-connecting with the spiritual world of the forests and wilderness. It can also be used on the “Totensonntag“, for contacting one’s ancestors and for protection from “Wiedergänger” (revenants).
“Day of the Dead”
The pagan festivities surrounding Samhain have been substituted by Christian feast days throughout a large part of the Western world. Folkloric customs are a part of marketing schemes. From the pagan Samhain to the Christian All Saints day, the modern world celebrates “Halloween” with plastic skulls, led pumpkins and dressing up as corpses. Everyone can be a zombie for one day and night and feel more alive than the rest of the year. Halloween gives a good example for cultural appropriation gone wild, every year a little more. But I blame none. Because it is part of human nature, both to adopt other traditions as well as to defend one’s own culture and rituals.
One of these traditions that have been sinking into the Western world and heavily influence our aesthetics, is the Mexican Dia de los Muertos. As the festival in Mexico grows bigger and becomes more impressive every year, so grows the fascination with it outside of Mexico. Just like the cult of Santissima Muerte grows in numbers both in and outside Mexico. Death worship is real and prospering. It is nothing extraordinary.
All over the world people venerate their ancestors and spirits of death, with altars at home, at their graves or in temples or chapels dedicated to them. And often there are special festivals dedicated to the veneration of the dead. In some countries these celebrations fall in the months of July and August, such as the Japanese Obon or the Argentinian feast for San la Muerte. In other countries they center around the days and nights spanning from All Hallow’s Eve (October 31st) to All Saints (November 1st) and All Souls Day (November 2nd).
A funny exception is Germany, where it is custom to visit and adorn the graves of family members on the Totensonntag (the “Sunday of the Dead”). It falls on the last Sunday before the first Advent (usually at end of November) and, though of Protestant origin, is a protected holiday in all of Germany. And death is no funny affair in Germany, as the day is meant to be spent in silence, e.g. it is forbidden to dance or play loud music in public.
So, for me “Halloween” is not the time to commemorate my ancestors. But it is still a special time of the year, during which I am free to explore and find light in other traditions.
In Mexico the celebration starts on All Hallow’s Eve, when children make altars for the angelitos (the souls of dead children). November 1st is referred to as Día de los Inocentes (“Day of the Innocents”) or Día de los Angelitos (“Day of the Little Angels”), which is when the souls of dead children are honored. On November 2nd, the actual Dia de los Muertos, the graves of dead family members are visited. The graves are adorned with cempasuchil flowers, the flowers of the dead. Between the orange sea of flowers, candles are lit and Muertos (the bread of the dead) and sugar skulls are placed as offerings, along with favorite food, beverages, photos etc. The dead are greeted and welcomed back to the world of the living for one day and night. Dancing and intoxication are welcome and encouraged.
This way of approaching the dead is very different from the official German custom. Since a few years I have joined in the tradition of baking bread of the dead and incorporating some of the Mexican elements in my own worship practice. I can tell it kept me busy! This year I am forced to cut down a bit. I hence created this incense blend for the day of the dead, with favorite ingredients and my own Calavera design.
This incense blend is foremost dedicated to the Mexican tradition of venerating the ancestors, but may also work in the contexts of European ancestor veneration, as it simply pleases and honors the beloved dead. Alternative incense blends for these occasions can be found in my shop.
Contains: cempasuchil (marigold) flower petals, dark copal, myrrh, palo santo wood, patchouli, red rose, rosemary, tobacco, yauthli, yerba santa
Use: celebrating the day(s) of the dead and honoring the beloved dead
As I am typing this, the candle has already extinguished and there are nearly as many tiny air bubbles in the glass of water as dots on the ink drawing in the background.
My little fall equinox altar is made of tokens gathered during the past days. It also features a small glass of self-made hawthorn liqueur. The hawthorn goddess was addressed for empowerment at a time when I am down with flu and need to recharge both physically as well as spiritually.
The drawing is one of three drawings I did last week. It is the second in the small series and titled “Pathfinder”, since the shape reminded me of a creature equipped with plenty of sensors, which seems to be pushing forward against an icy storm. The third drawing is now in the possession of The Witching Veil, together with the autumn mandrake root depicted on it.
The incense burnt was the Black sacra from Luban Frankincense Supplier. It has a deeper, somewhat richer aroma than the green and white frankincense from Oman, and fits just perfectly for the season.
With the passing of the Fall Equinox, Samhain is just around the corner. I will hence begin preparing my presentation for this year’s Samhain Celebration in Gotha, which I am attending for the second time in a row.
The latest addition to the shop will be new autumn mandrake roots, which will go up for sale in the evening. Please also take a look at the new listings in the Sigilla Magica category.
Last but not least I thank all of you, who ordered my Dog Days incense. I have but one jar each left. The coming days I will work on new batches of Samhain incense, as well as restocking incense for Qayin and Lilith.
As Teufelskunst keeps growing it has long been my wish to offer my customers an easier way to order my hand-made artworks and incense blends. This wish is finally becoming reality. The new webshop is on the way!
The next weeks will hence mark a transition period, as we are working on setting everything up. On May 20th/21st, the following changes will take place:
The snow came and went just about the same time as last year. Today has had more snow. Before I post about the new things I’ve been creating for you, I will share here some impressions from my way to work etc.
And how it looked in town…
Things in the works:
+ A new batch of Adramelech incense is completed and can be ordered now! Two blog posts about the different ingredients contained in this blend to follow… + Incense for Thagirion has been added to the store… + Crafted new wooden seed boxes, but yet have to fill them… + Still working on the dark wintry “Isa” incense… More updates to follow soon. +
Impressions from the Samhain Celebration in Gotha, 4th of November ’16
I arrive in Gotha Thursday evening and find the town nearly empty. Having to bridge time and spotting a supermarket nearby, I buy food, water and a pomegranate… Gotha seems to be a place of short distances. At the train station I meet Soth Arts, who will be my comrade for the next 2 days. We could take the tram but decide to walk. Through the park and by the castle; Gotha has its charm, despite or because it feels very much like a ghost town that evening. We check into our hotel, were I am presented the rosaries made for the event: black and ebony wooden beads harmonize perfectly with the Teufelskunst bronze amulets. I quickly put mine on. We have no time to loose…
Out again in the cold night and in a roundabout way we arrive at the pub. There Martin (the organizer) greets us. We find him surrounded by a bustling team of helpers, who are threading up chestnuts, painting banners and applying various green to the stage. One contributor supplied half of his garden to transform the stage into a theatrical scene worthy of an opera production, and 100% in harmony with the Samhain theme.
We quickly join the industrious proceedings and begin stamping and filling little bags with the prepared incense. It gets late and as we finally head back to the hotel, passing by the park again and from the corner of our eyes noticing different interesting trees and crossroads, we plan our spirit offerings for the coming night: I already have the pomegranate and incense; to this we add rum and candles.
The next morning we continue, finishing the last preparations for the evening. Then we have lunch, buy our offerings and pack everything to come with us tonight. It is all damn tight. Even minutes before the pub opens we are putting finishing touches to merch items and set up our table. In the end all is on time, save for my photo exhibition. It turns out the pub is too dark (behold the irony). In addition I face resistance by the pub owners over hanging up the heavy gallery frames, which would involve the hammering of nails into their walls and timber… The darkness wins, I no longer want for my sombre photographs to adorn the even more sombre pub walls. So I improvise and put up the works on chairs and inside windows, where they are still best seen. This serves as a temporary solution for the evening. A better place has yet to be found.
So this is a bummer. I am also starting to feel the lack of sleep and food and the pressure on me, just minutes before the audience begins rolling in. But I am not alone. Soth Arts is there, being an immense support. Erik from Grift, who I meet here for the first time, cheers me up with Swedish lessons and of course there are the many helping hands that are now waiting to see the result of their hard work. I forget to worry about my photos (whoever is meant to see the works will notice them.)
The venue fills quickly and the first band, Vivus Humare, starts on time, followed by Grift from Sweden, MOSAIC and finally Farsot. All four are new to me. Vivus Humare play Black Metal without much add-ons. The 60 minute performance passes in no time. Grift provide a contrast: there is Erik Gärdefors with his acoustic guitar and little singing bowl. He is the special guest of the evening and delivers a beautifully melancholic performance, which convinces the audience and is met with applause. Then comes the time for MOSAIC, the host of the celebration, if you will. Though Martin performs in fact with three bands on this evening, which deserves respect on its own. I watch the MOSAIC performance closely. Martin appears absent, absorbed in his roll of “Inkantator”. His facial expression are grotesque and there is a cold passion in his voice, which seems to echo from a distant glacier world. We spoke of Dame Hulda and her connection to the town of Gotha before – her icy presence is certainly to be felt on this night.
In between and during the gigs I chat with people dropping by our table. For me this is a new experience, as I have not presented my work with Teufelskunst to a live audience before, much less in a metal concert setting. I am used to black metal and the metal audience due to my photography and past-time freelancing for music magazines, but this is altogether a different situation. I was not sure at all if this would work out and whether the audience would accept and treat the hand-made artworks with respect. But it turns out they do, which is partly owed to the solemn atmosphere. On the other hand I also burn plenty of our protecting incense…
Those who are shy or can not relate, do not bother us. Others become curious: metal fans inquire for gardening advice and buy incense. Some communicate their understanding or serious interest in occult symbolism and practices. In the end there are around a dozen people that drop by our table, leave positive feedback and purchase photography as well as crafted items. It is nothing I take for granted and I am thankful for each and everyone one that shows interest. A special thanks goes to Soth Arts as well as Martin and his amazing co-workers. The spirits are thanked elsewhere.
Now I will leave you with these impressions in picture and sound, but not without a hint that you shall prepare for new offerings in November…
Teufelskunst contributes to the Samhain Celebration on November 4th, in Gotha (Germany). Teufelskunst provides the central part of the visual concept in the form of the “Samhain harvest” seal, which is featured on various merchandise articles. Teufelskunst also provides the incense of the night. A sample of the blend comes with each of the 100 merchandise kits. Included in this special offering is also a journal, the “Samhain Herald” featuring my essay about Samhain and the Wild Hunt, paying special attention to the European and Germanic traditions associated with the darkest time of the year.
Support: Soth Arts
Soth Arts created unique qliphotic rosaries for the night, eight of which are adorned with our blacksmith’s Teufelskunst bronze amulet. The rosaries are made of ebony and black wooden beads. Besides this will also be available seven rosaries with sawn-out twin-serpents as well as one rosary with a black Calvary cross pendant:
Date: November 4th
Location: The Londoner – English Pub, Gotha
Entrance: 6 pm
Begin: 8 pm
I am preparing my stall at the Samhain Celebration in Gotha (Germany) on November 4. All orders placed until October 15 will ship in time for Halloween. All orders placed after October 15 will be shipped by the 2nd week of November. Shipping times on my etsy listings have been updated accordingly. Thanks for your understanding!
More updates on the event, my stall and exhibition to follow this week…