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Thursday, 27 December 2012

Morozko (Jack Frost) - the Russian Magical Winter

The power of imagination can make a lot of difference in how you feel at the moment. So here I am, imagining a typical Russian winter. Everything is under a thick layer of snow and when you step on the snowdrift, your feet sink into its softness. The sky is clear blue and you can see crystals sparkling in the air. It's frost. Moroz in Russian. 
The winter season found its reflection in Russian folklore. As it can last up to 7 months, this season is a significant part of the Russian annual life cycle. There are numerous festivals celebrated during the winter, as to brighten up and warm up the cold days. Also, important to note, that the weddings were conducted in the winter too.
As I had promised earlier here is another Russian magical fairy tale. "Morozko" (Father Frost, Jack Frost) is its name. If interested, you can read it here. Not only this fairy tale pictures the Russian winter, it also teaches us very good lessons of patience, politeness, respect and kindness.
The female character of Morozko is a girl, who has to bear all the challenges of being a step daughter. A step mother hates her, as she is, first of all, beautiful, kind, and a good helper in the house. These qualities may affect her own daughter's marriage proposal success, as step daughter will be preferred upon her. Thinking of what shall she do with her accurst step daughter, the wicked step mother forces her husband to leave his daughter alone in the winter forest as she can freeze there to death.
Obeying his wicked wife, he takes the daughter to the woods on the sledge and leaves her under a big pine tree (a great father!). Later the girl starts feeling very cold, trying to warm up her ice cold hands with her breath when suddenly hears :"Are you warm, my girl?" This is Morozko, leaping from one tree to another.The girl being very kind and polite answers him: "I'm warm, father, thank you..." Morozko first wants to freeze the life out of her, but seeing her good nature, has mercy on this nice girl. them he keeps asking her same question few more times, and when she still replies "You are welcome, father, I'm warm", decides to bestow her with jewelry and a trunk of gems. The girl returns home in rich clothes and in beautiful sledge. 
The wicked step mother of course, becomes furious, and asks husband to send her own daughter to the forest as she can also get all those treasures from Morozko.
Now we assume that the story ends good for those how deserve happiness and bad for those who deserved  punishment. In this way the fairy tale seems to be quiet cruel. The step mother's daughter never returns home in all the glory. Placed under the same pine tree,she is also questioned by Morozko how she is doing, but she replies rudely : "Are you blind? Can't you see that my hands and feet are numb?" In the end what the step mother gets is her daughter's cold body in the sleigh... Morozko didn't have mercy on her rude, lazy daughter. The old man's daughter marries a neighbor, and they live happily ever after.
Yes, many Russian fairy tales have this moment in them, when the main character gets everything after sufferings, and the offender left with nothing or even finds his or her death. Morozko meanwhile is a personification of the Russian winter, which can be kind or cause many difficulties to people. So as to please it, you have to be kind and polite to it always. 
Have a happy magical winter and a Happy New Year!
Yours sincerely,
Witchcraft and Literature

Monday, 24 December 2012

The Feather of Finist the Falcon

Continuing with the Russian fairy tales, the next one to talk about is a beautiful The Feather of Finist the Falcon (Пёрышко Финиста ясна сокола). Yes, I found my dear witches in it as well :). One of them - our very well known Baba-Yaga  and another- a queen enchantress.
The story about Finist the Falcon is a traditional Russian folk tale about a lad who can turn to a feather or a falcon and about a girl who fell in love with him.
Obviously, that being in love with a supernatural guy has its difficulties and challenges. Finist the Falcon has to fly away from the girl Maryushka after wicked sisters prevent him from entering the room by inserting blades in the window frame. He says at last that she'll find him only after she wears out three pairs of iron shoes, breaks three iron staves and three iron caps. The number 3 has always been a magical number (lucky too) in Russian folklore. So many actions are repeated for three times in the fairy tale (and in life's superstitious moments) as to ensure success. Maryushka is able to reach the palace where her Finist is held by the Queen, exactly after she breaks all those iron items (3 items, three each of them).
I had been speaking already about traditional folklore theme of the meeting of the main character with Baba-Yaga  several times with regard to Olesya and Russian folklore. Same is in the Finist the Falcon as the protagonist can't accomplish her journey without help. This help, as usual, comes from Baba-Yaga. In fact, there are 3 of them in the story, each of which helps on the particular stage as the plot unwinds. Each of Baba Yagas gives Maryushka a bewitched thing which is supposed to aid her in future. Maryushka gets to know that Finist the Falcon was given a potion and, befuddled, was forced to marry the queen. First Baba Yaga provides her with a golden plate and a golden egg.
Second Baba Yaga's  gift is the needle which can do embroidery with gold and silver on its own. The third bewitched object she is given is a spindle which can spin on its own. Maryushka has to exchange all three things on the right to see Finist the Falcon.
Moreover Maryushka is assisted by animals as well. She meets a cat and a dog, who encourage her (yes, they can speak!) to continue her way through the dark forest in spite of fear. The third animal she meets is a wolf who gives her a ride on his back.
I.Bilibin, Finist the Falcon
When Maryushka dwells to the walls of the crystal palace, she, following an advise of the first Baba Yaga, hires out as a queen's maid. The queen, seeing all Maryushka's peculiar objects, wants to buy them. Maryushka however  requests to see Finist the Falcon in exchange. Another challenge now is that Finist, being befuddled, fell into a wakeless sleep, and she can't make him to see her. Last time, when she almost lost hope to wake him, and starts crying, one of the tears drops on the shoulder of her beloved and this awakens him. He is happy to see her, they head back home and get married.
I.Bilibin, Finist the Falcon
Russian Wedding in old times
Hope you liked this fairy tale with few witches in them. I'm going to make a post about a winter fairy tale, with little bit of magic in it too, of course:)
   *** Hope you had a great Winter Solstice day. Merry Christmas and Yule to all! ***
Yours sincerely,
Witchcraft and Literature

Monday, 3 December 2012

The Shining Moon in The Clouds, Let's Be Alike

 The Moon was shining so bright two nights back ...It wasn't full already, but had just started declining...that enigmatic light fascinated me. The Moon was different that night...It made me stand beneath and take its pictures.. again and again... My hands were shaking as not being able to fix for a clear snap... I was trying again and again until got these few snaps... It was worth it. The clouds around the Moon were taking me into infinity... The most odd thing was those four rays which appeared from nowhere... The Moon is not a star... Still it shines. So be like the Moon, shine whenever and wherever you are, even if they say, you are not of that nature. 

Yours sincerely,
Witchcraft and Literature

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Wise and Beautiful - Vasilisa

Taking care of two blogs is not easy, especially when they differ from each other so much. My Sunny Indian Days is indeed bright and colourful, while Witchcraft and More is dark and has more of tints of black. However I don't really distinguish them, as they both reflect my so various interests which I simply couldn't include in the same blog. I chose to divide, and you see what I got in the end. The topic of Witchcraft was waiting for its next manifestation in here - I'm  letting it happen.
I found out that one of my very first posts "Witch - good and bad? Russian Baba-Yaga" got few back links over the Internet, and the picture I used for it also brings me more and more views per day. So I thought I'd continue with witchcraft in folklore, finding new facts and new pictures. 
As mentioned in the same post, Baba-Yaga is the most popular witch of the Russian fairy tales. She is old, ugly, can be very dangerous nevertheless helpful. I might make a separate post about her, as she deserves proper attention. These are one of the modern visions of Baba-Yaga:                                                     
                   
                             Baba-Yaga by AppleSin

Quite scary, isn't it? In some of the blogs I saw that she is even called "Goddess" hence might be worshipped by some Wiccans. But If I talk about the Russian fairy tales, Baba-Yaga is not the only witch or sorcerer. There are also few female characters which have such adjectives in their names like the Wise and the Beautiful.  They either charm with their appearance or/and wit, or they actually are turned to some animal and they do a little bit of magic... Isn't it something obviously witchy in here? ;) I suppose it is, let's see what interesting is in the store of folklore.
Vasilisa the Wise is the character of the fairy tale "The Frog-Princess". Once the arrow sent from  the bow of the prince is caught by a frog - a custom to choose a would-be-wife. Prince Ivan, obeying the tradition, has to marry a frog, and he takes her home. His brothers make fun of him, because of course, he is marrying a..well..frog! Little they knew that this small animal is actually a beautiful girl, a princess Vasilisa the Wise who was bewitched to stay in a guise of a reptile until... some young man (a prince) finds and marries her in spite of her looks. 
The king, a father of the prince, announces different tasks one by one for the wives of his sons. The tasks are such as weave a carpet, bake white bread (called Karavai in Russian) - all in one night, and what is worst, come to the king's feast! The prince feels sad as his wife is just a frog and won't be able to do any of the tasks. She says him to got to bed. When the prince fall asleep, she turns to a princess, leaving her frog skin aside and starts doing magic... The frog-princess successfully performs two first tasks by weaving a wonderful carpet, which embroidery shimmers; she bakes the cake which the king likes the most out of three. 
           
The Frog-Princess, N.Petrov                                Russian Beauty, Konstantin Makovsky
This article pours some light on the meaning of these difficult jobs given to the princess. The author Irina Haustova says that they symbolize the "magic of vital circle", in which, for example, weaving, bread baking are accomplished in one go, from the beginning till end in short period of time, which otherwise couldn't be possible without magic and what was reflected in the fairy tale. If explain the same from religious (pagan) point of view "In those ancient times people believed that the closed life cycle has special properties, special force [...]The committed actions in this magic are frequently weaving, spinning, winding - all symbolically linked with the fate and with the ordering of the world, the creation of the cosmos" (b).
Visit of the feast is the last task, where the Frog Princess reveals her true nature. She appears now in a guise of a beautiful girl, in shining attire and a crown (just like in the pictures above). She astounds all the guests, but more, her husband. The Frog Princess collects some wine and some bones in her sleeves while feasting. Strange. Next, she dances for those present, but in a different way: she throws the wine out of her sleeve, and it becomes a lake; she throws the bones out of another, and they become swans swimming in the lake.
Vasnetsov, the Frog Princess
I found out that this dance has a deep symbolical meaning, coming, once again, from the Russia's pagan past. The author of this essay explains that the Frog Princess's dance represents the pagan ritual activities that occur in the spring of the annual cycle. The throwing of wine and the bones symbolize the revival of nature after the winter.The Frog Princess herself is also linked to the archetype of Women's Self, nature, live, the Earth and the erotic, aspects of which are the Princess and Priestess. I was studying folklore in the university, and we used to review many fairy tales, but not particularly this one, which has so much to tell about.   
Now let's refer to one more typical character of the Russian fairy tales.
Vasilisa the Beautiful shares the same name with the previous princess, however her story is quiet different. Vasilisa's life becomes miserable after her mother's death. Her father marries a widow with two daughters, who try to exhaust Vasilisa, make her ill by giving her loads of house work. However Vasilisa in opposite is becoming more and more beautiful day by day, while step mother and her daughters lose their looks. The thing which keeps Vasilisa healthy and strong is a small doll left by her late mother. And it is a quiet magical attribute. The doll can speak, eat, she does house work, gives advises, spares Vasilisa... just like the mother would and that's what this doll stands for - Vasilisa's mother, who even after her death helps the daughter.
            
                                                       Vasilisa the Beautiful and her Doll (Kinuko Y.)
One night Vasilisa is sent by her stepmother to fetch the light for a candle from Baba Yaga. She carries a doll with her. Baba Yaga agrees to give her fire only when she accomplishes few tasks (some are as same difficult as in "The Frog Princess"). The doll helps her to do so, of course. The picture below illustrates the moment Vasilisa is carrying a skull with the light home. However her step mother and step sisters are burned to the ground by the eye hole's light, as a punishment for treating Vasilisa so bad. Don't mess with a girl with a doll... The doll, obviously, has a symbolic meaning as well. You can read about it as well as about overall meaning of this folk tale which is analyzed from psychological point of view in this nice article.
 A female character of the Russian fairy tales inherited a rich system of pagan believes. Vasilisa is not the only wise and beautiful, there are also Elena, Mariya and other young woman who are bestowed with unique abilities. One of them even called Baba-Yaga's daughter. I'd like to continue telling about the world of Russian folklore in the next posts. Hope you are with me and can give suggestions on what else I can speak about in Witchcraft and More. There is so much MORE!
Literature/on line sources used:
4. Clarissa Estes, Vasilisa the Wise and the Doll
Yours sincerely,
Witchcraft and Literature

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

One Step at A Time

Manelle Oliphant Illustration, Nice Witch
I know that the Witchcraft and Literature is in a slow motion. The reason is that the object of my exploration is somehow not that easy to write about. It takes me some time to finalise what story, novel, novella will be suitable, and what I am actually going to tell about it. I choose only those books which I myself read and liked. I can't pick up any story with a witch protagonist and start explaining what's going on in it. I need to think over what stroke me in the story, what made it my favourite. In other words, I need to FEEL it. 
Some time ago I made a list of the potential material for my blog, however I am not able to find it now. I have already made some posts about witchcraft theme in the novel Master and Margarita, novella Olesya. Besides I try to get to know more about witchcraft itself and my journey has been successful so far. 
I noticed that the things, we start taking into our interest, arise here and there, make you feel that they are now a tiny bit of your life, and that you also know a little more about them than others. Same is with my expanding knowledge of witchcraft. Though I am not practising it and perhaps, never going to, my mind is able to see the res in a broader way. Whenever I happen upon a witch in a movie or a book, I can apply what  I have already learnt about this topic. There is still so much to get on to...
I can now see that witchcraft is the same part of culture as anything else is. If it appeared in our life so many centuries ago, it became our heritage too. I also got to know that mostly humans are cowardly. Yes, they are, and that's why witchcraft always was and is one of the phenomena presented as horrible, dark, devilish, evil and anti-social. We believe it to be such and we put ourselves into frames. 
When following the stories of two witches from Russian literature, Margarita and Olesya, I found that both were passionately in love and had to suffer for opportunity to be with their "simple" beloved ones. The witch = suffering? Possibly, it is because having a witchy nature means follow the path of feelings, which very often hurt us...
So I am taking one step at a time to create, learn, reflect on the topic of witchcraft in literature. 
Blessings to all my readers! Happy November!
P.S. in recent series of Vampire Diaries I heard a very good term for witch-male a "warlock"! Sorry, but for me it is a new word in my English vocabulary.

Yours sincerely,
Witchcraft and Literature

Friday, 26 October 2012

Halloween Bats and Ghosts

It is coming... Halloween of course! So here are some more details of my Halloween decor. The bats and the ghosts... I also created the Last Minute Halloween Bats Decor tutorial. You are welcome to try if you want. Wishing you a spooky crafty adventure! Hope you all are doing great and I will be back with some more witches in literature soon.
Yours sincerely,
Witchcraft and Literature

Friday, 19 October 2012

Unconditional Love of The Witch Olesya - Part 2

Today we continue to look inside the relations of the novella's main heroes.
How the protagonist finally meets witch is somehow a folklore theme. While hunting a hare in the woods with Yarmola, the hero looses the way and proceeds walking inside the forest. The barrier is a swamp he has to cross. He sees the walls of a woodman's house among the trees and, struggling to go through the marsh, he approaches it. The main hero opens the hut's door and sees only the hut's dark premises... After he calls out for some live soul, he notices an old woman sitting on the floor with a pile of chicken feathers in front of her.
Baba Yaga's hut, as pictured in the Russian fairy tales
Of note note that the main hero's thinking regarding witches is not free from "standard" beliefs. He, not knowingly, feeds his mind with superstitions. When seeing  Manuilikha, he compares her at once with  Baba Yaga, a Russian folklore character. The hero, himself, is just like Ivan from the Russian fairy tales, who stumbles upon Baba Yaga's hut and then asks her to help him.The old witch Manuilikha is not happy at all to see a stranger in her house, moreover, a young man... All because she is accustomed to live out of reach of people and she has a 25 years old granddaughter. The main hero then tries to soften her offering a coin but she has to make a spread for him  in return. While this the hero hears a woman's voice singing a song... and this is how the meeting with Manuilikha's granddaughter Olesya occurs. The protagonist asks Olesya to show him a path out of the woods and they get into a small conversation. The young man of the story gets to know that Olesya and her grandmother were indeed driven away to the forest, and she says herself the people call "Grandmother a 'witch,' a 'shedevil,' a 'jail-bird'". Would you be friendly to others after such accusations in your address?
 Furthermore, the relations between Olesya and the master develop during frequent visits of the latter to the hut. First, the conversations of the young people remind "teacher-pupil" talks, when the hero tries to educate Olesya... Nevertheless, he considers her to be very intelligent for a girl who doesn't even know how to read and has been living in the woods whole her life.
 I guess that the "witchiness", secrets, surrounding Olesya, charm the main hero more that her wit. He tries to convince himself that magic and witchcraft and witches after all, don't exist, while Olesya's belief in her curse of being able to know secrets of life and. actually, do magic, never fades away.  Oleays shows few tricks to her lover and he tries to explain it by some laws of physics...She throws herself in the embrace of love though she knows that this won't lead to any good. Olesya's ability to give her whole entity to the person she loves and never ask for same in return, is her main strength as well as weakness. In order to please her beloved she, in spite of anything, decides to go to the village church, and this is where she meets peasants' enmity towards her witch's nature. They beat and abuse her, and while she manages to escape, she curses everyone around, singing a sentence to flee this place forever.
  The main hero hurries to see Olesya after this incident and finds her covered in bruises and wounds  She explains him that now she and her grandmother have to  leave... Olesya however is happy anyway, because she was able to love...unconditionally. She only regrets that she didn't have a baby with her beloved...
The main hero can't do anything: neither stop nor follow her. He is the one who is weak and can sacrifice his love to his social status. Olesya leaves the place suddenly and all is what the main hero left is her coral necklace... May be he will now start believing in supernatural because Olesya predicted that their love won't have a happy ending...
I can't  not to make analogy with Margarita, a woman, who sacrificed her entity  and Olesya, who stayed true to her witchy nature. Both had to persuade their lovers to believe in love and both physically suffered for standing their ground. Do Russian writers consider women to be stronger than the men? Or more dedicated... or do women simply BELIEVE in the power of love? 

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Halloween in Bright Colors

 A quick post to present my witchy creations:) I made some stuff to set my room with, whereas I am going to celebrate Halloween this year. Hope you like these cute crochet pumpkins, bunting and a witch. Halloween doesn't have to be always scary. Let's fill it with bright colors and beautiful things!

Yours sincerely,
Witchcraft and Literature

Friday, 5 October 2012

Unconditional Love of The Witch Olesya - Part 1

 "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres." (1 Corinthians 13:4-7). It's a little strange to start a post about a witch from the Bible's quote.. However these three lines is the foundation of the romantic stories by Russian writer Kuprin A.I.  These stories is another favorite read of mine I got from home this summer.
One of the most touching and beautiful of them is the one called "Olesya". I read it three days back, again. It always boosts my imagination and I walk half dreaming about it for few more days.
The protagonist, from whose side the story is narrated, is an official, sent to the "God-forsaken village in the Volhynian borderland of Polesye" as he says about the place. He tries to keep himself busy by game-shooting, giving medical help to locals, and noting the area's legends and tales. He doesn't like the place much and calls it "out-of-the-way corner... - simple manners, primitive characters". The relations with the peasants "never went beyond the fact that, on seeing me from a distance, they would take off their caps and, as they came alongside, would mutter sullenly "Speedjue," which was supposed to mean "God speed you." The locals would also start kissing the hands - "an old custom from the time of Polish serfdom". The main character is placed in such environment which doesn't relate his vision of the world. He underlines throughout the story the wildness of the local beliefs...
Ivan Shishkin (1832-1898), The hut in the Forest
The rationalism of the main character is opposed to the superstitions which fill the minds of the peasants. One winter day the main hero, which is called master by his helper Yarmola, sat in his room, while the severe storm was blowing outside...
"Where do you think this horrible wind comes from, Yarmola?"
"The wind?" Yarmola looked up lazily. "Why, don't you know, master?"
"Of course not. How could I know such a thing?"
"Don't you, really!" Yarmola was roused. "I'll tell you," he went on, a shade mysteriously. "Either a witch has been born, or a wizard's making merry." I pounced eagerly on this. "Who knows," I thought, "perhaps I may worm out of him some interesting story of magic, hidden treasures, or werewolves."
"Have you got any witches here in Polesye?" I asked..." This is how the main hero started getting involved in the world of witchcraft and... love. Yarmola then tells the master the tale that there was a witch but "the lads drove her away" to the forests, burning her house "so that not a chip would be left of her accursed nest".
Here we can see that the attitude towards witches is completely negative, moreover, the witch is blamed in whatever bad happens in the village. Thus the witch was driven away because she was believed to do loads of harm like casting spells, plait the stalks in the sheaves...and of course to cause serious illness in the family and furthermore a death of one woman's child!
The curiosity of the master rises as he gets to know that the witch is now living in the forest with her daughter or granddaughter. He intends to see her as soon as the days get warmer. Yarmola tells that the witch's name is Manuilikha...
I am going to cover the rest of the story in the next post, as this one gets too long to read at once. I am going to tell about the relations which tie up between the main hero and  the witch's granddaughter...Do you think it's going to be as successful as the mystic venture of the Master and Margarita?
P.S. the citations are from the  book "Olesya" translated from the Russian by Stepan Apresyan. The book is available here.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

The Spring Ball of the Full Moon

If you were following the ventures of Margarita, you must be knowing that she is now getting ready for the so-called Spring Ball of the Full Moon (or the Ball of the hundred kings) held by the devil himself, Woland. Margarita is told by one of his servants to be a mistress there, Queen of the Ball. This is the price she has to pay for returning her Master. I won't be getting into the implication of the name of the ball. You can read about it  hereI would like to see the novel as a completely magical composition right now. The ball is held at the midnight and Margarita is led by Koroviev and cat Begemot to the dark hall, where she steps into the swimming pool and is bathed in blood and rose oil,  then rubbed with some green leaves. "A force picked her up and placed in front of the mirror, and the Queen's diamond diadem glittered in her hair. Koroviev appeared from somewhere and hung on Margarita's breast a heavy, in the oval frame, picture of the black poodle on the massive chain. This jewelry has burdened Queen immensely. The chain started rubbing a neck suddenly , the image drawn her to bend. But something rewarded Margarita for all these inconveniences, which were caused by this chain with the poodle.  This was that reverence Koroviev and Begemot began treating her with". Then someone makes rose petal shoes for Margarita, which lock with golden buckles on their own.
The first detail of this transformation of Margarita into Queen of the Ball is an oval-framed picture of the poodle which is hung on her neck. This is a reference to the Goethe's Faust, where Mefistopheles appears to Faust as a  poodle. She wears the poodle picture as she is the Woland's mistress at the ball. Koroviev suggests her to give special attention to each of the guests, as they may feel hurt otherwise. "You have to love, love him, Queen. The mistress of the ball will be handsomely rewarded for this!"
   The ball at Satan's, as described by Bulgakov, is the most fascinating I have ever read about in literature and I doubt there is another one. It began with the cat Begemot's scream "Ball!".  Music and different flavors suddenly fell on Margarita and she saw herself in the tropical garden. Margarita followed Koroviev and Begemot along the wall of the white tulips which appeared all of a sudden. She saw an empty hall, with "the columns made of some sparkly yellowish stone". All the musicians in the orchestra stood up to greet Queen and  the kapellmeister "bowed low with wide spread arms, and, Margarita smiling, waved..." Later she gets to know that the kapellmeister is Johann Strauss... 
Her walk is not over, and the next hall she flies into, has three fountains, which are pouring champagne into the pools. Finally they arrive onto the platform where Margarita stands beside the low amethyst pillar under her left hand.  One of the black-skinned boys lays a cushion embroidered with a golden poodle under Margarita's feet. An invisible force bends her knee and puts her right foot on the cushion. Now she has to meet the arriving guests and let them kiss her knee. The guests are not common as they are those who went to Hell after their death. They are mostly murderers, thieves, sinful women...
Margarita, Queen of the Ball, cat Begemot and Koroviev
 The Margarita's mission on the Ball in the novel never leaves readers indifferent. She becomes pale as blood is streaming under her diadem and the oval-framed poodle image draws down more and more, her knee swells because of the numerous kissed from devilish guests, still she remains strong and replies that everything is all right when asked by Koroviev. She has to accomplish the duty with grace. Neither cut off head of Berlioz turned into a skull chalice which is filled with baron Meigel's blood, nor all those scary guests can make her change her mind. 
Margarita's truly queen nature saves her from faults as she internally senses what and how to speak with Woland. After Margarita's duty is fulfilled she is asked by Woland what does she want in  return, but even now she leaves her selfishness and asks for one of the guests Freida to be freed from the punishment of putting a handkerchief, with which she strangled her baby, beside her bed every morning as a reminder of her crime. Woland says that Margarita is just too generous and that this doesn't count, she can now ask for herself. Obviously that this time she requests to give her Master back and he suddenly appears in front of her, straight from the mental hospital... Further destiny of Master and Margarita is not  a "happy end" in mundane impression, it is something like eternal life without others around and peace...
Woland is not pictured as "good evil" which helps two lovers to finally be together. Woland is cruel, firm, he is testing mortals in the worst situations for them to check their greed, lust, in one word, provoking them to sin.  He succeeds as the people haven't changed much since the times of Jesus...
Margarita becomes witch because of the "misery and despair" as she herself explains it. Being a part of a dark side she now in fact can see the light, can see purpose of life in protecting her master and living with him in peace. Bulgakov doesn't mean that the dark side has to be your choice, he doesn't say it about the light as well, but he promotes values of human life like love, passion,dedication, honesty, and one of the main themes of the novel as freedom of spirit, freedom of  expression. 

Yours Sincerely,
Witchcraft and Literature
  

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Master and Margarita - In the Woland's Apartment

The novel The Master and Margarita is rich in symbols and ambiguous interpretations of the events. Speaking about the witchcraft framework in the novel, I shall say that of course, this is not what the novel is about, but it is very important for the development of the characters. The elements of magic create a surreal world in which you have to find the real meanings. 
 "The room appeared to be not very big. Margarita saw a big broad bed with creasy and crumpled bed sheets and a pillow. An oak wood table with carved legs, on which was placed a chandelier with sockets in the shape of clawed bird's paws, stood in front of the bed. The thick wax candles were lit in these seven sockets. Besides this, a big chess board with the figures, remarkably adept, was on the table. A small bench stood on a shabby carpet. There was one more table with some gold chalice on it and another chandelier, branches of which were made in the shape of the serpents. The smell of sulfur and resin was in the room, shadows from the lamps criss-crossed on the floor...", - as seen by Margarita when she has her first meeting with the devil before the Spring Ball of the Full Moon.
We can see that the room is full of symbolic objects and details. There are seven lit candles. No need to say that the number seven is one of the most powerful and known for its magical properties. Number seven is associated with Venus and more recently with Neptun. This is the number of feelings and of instincts. Remember that we are talking about the novel and a love story in it?
Another object of interest for us is the chalice, which properties are known from the Meet witches' tools post. The chalice can be a part of Hella's altar (Hella is a witch and a vampire from the Woland's retinue). The animalistic details like bird's claws and serpents are those which belong to the dark symbols. Especially the serpent as the devil's disguise in the Old Testament. 

The chess board represents spiritual life and the choice. Playing chess with the Devil stakes your life. Even the chess party in Harry Potter, though wasn't with the devil, nevertheless was supposed to reward the winner. The smell of sulfur is traditionally associated with the Devil, evil spirit.
The room, where Woland resides, speaks for itself and gives hints that it is habitation of the dark power. Margarita's sight was attracted to the bed where Woland sat and Hella was applying some ointment onto his aching knee. The aching knee, limping is a reference to the fall of Satan from Heaven after which he damaged his leg. However Bulgakov's Satan Woland appeared in front of Margarita with very human features too: "he wore a long night gown, dirty and with patches on the left shoulder", "his face was skewed and a mouth was drawn down, there were cut deep wrinkles parallel to his sharp eyebrows on his high bald forehead".    
Margarita also notices that "the skin on the Woland's face seemed to be burned evermore", what refers to the fire of Hell, because even Woland's hands seem to be very hot when he makes Margarita sit beside him on the bed. Margarita notices "a beetle, skillfully carved from a dark stone, on the golden chain and with some script on its back" on the hairless Woland's chest, which is definitely is an Egyptian scarab.
Woland greets Margarita and excuses for his "homely look" , he has a very low quality of voice. Woland is very frustrated (!) because of his knee as he has to participate in the upcoming ball. When Hella is told to do preparations for the ball, Margarita willingly offers her help to apply the ointment on the Satan's knee. The ball is going to start at the midnight which is nee, Woland suggests Margarita to be calm and not to drink anything except water during the ball. Let's see what other witchcraft elements are used by Bulgakov at The Spring Ball of the Full Moon .
One more interesting note: Margarita was surprised that the chess figures were alive! They were moving, fighting, getting upset... about 70 years prior to that idea of Harry Potter magical chess :)!
P.S. the passage describing the room and  other snippets of the novel are translated by me.
Yours sincerely,
Witchcraft and Literature

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

All the witches need a BLACK cat?

I myself adore cats and I had one who was living with our family for 17 years and died because of senility. The cat was black and white, with green eyes. If I were a witch I would have definitely considered him to be my magical cat :) And he was, I believe, not an ordinary one.
More than the brooms and the cauldrons the witches have to own ... a black cat. How it happened that this fluffy fellow became a favorite tame animal among the wizardry folks? What is the role of it in all the process at last? And do all the witches need particularly a black cat?

The witchcraft is much more complicated matter than as it is presented in popular culture. The black cats are being one of the inalienable characters of  the witchcraft as a simple interpretation of it. The book of  1964 "Ugh, Ugh, Touch Wood" (Tьфу, Tьфу, чтоб не сглазить) by V. Ostrovsky was one of my favorite read. The book is not just about the witchcraft but it gives kind of atheistic point of view on the human's beliefs, including magic. Look at the cover - the black cat is crawling among the letters!
Why black? Because this color is traditionally considered to be a color of witchcraft and we keep this in out mind too.We know that the cats were worshiped in ancient Egypt, and when mummified had to accompany their owners in the other world. It is mentioned in "The Encyclopedia of Witchcraft, Witches and Wicca" that the black cats at the same time were associated with darkness and death in the Egyptian mythology (b). 
 In the same book is said that "according to lore every witch, sorcerer, gypsy was supposed to have a cat. During (the XVI century) witch hunts, the cats were familiars, they embodied the demons who performed the witches' tasks of maleficia against their neighbors". The book then gives an example of a  convicted witch Elizabeth Francis who said she kept white spotted cat named Sathan, which whenever it performed a job for her, demanded a reward of a drop of her blood". The cat isn't black in this story, is it? However during the same XVI century the black cats were said to be the Devil himself and many of them were hunted and burned. Is it some kind of a "black color phobia"?
The Love Potion by Evelin de Morgan
   "Though the black cat is associated with witchcraft, it is considered a good luck own one in parts of Europe, England and  the United States. But having one's path crossed by a black cat is always bad luck," -says the above mentioned Encyclopedia. So the belief in black cat's dark powers is relative. All the cats were bestowed somewhat supernatural powers like seeing ghosts, being able to sense danger and so on.
What about the black cat in modern witchcraft tradition? As Encyclopedia says " In Wicca, the cat is favored companion or familiar, valued for its psychic sensitivity and assistance in magic and ritual". However it is not mentioned in any of special rules that the cat a witch owns has to be necessarily black. I found such statement "black cats are just double the witchiness! The black cat is one of the most common Wicca symbols, to outsiders" on one of the Wicca sites.  I consider that such perception of the black cat by modern Wiccans is based on an ancient thinking of which I told about earlier in this post: witchcraft - black color.
The concept of the particularly black cat as a companion of any witch can be an archetype (Carl Gustav Jung's term) which is being popularized in our century and got a second life. So seven are left still? ;)
What we can conclude is that the cat was an enigmatic animal even centuries ago, it continues being such nowadays too. We value cats for their ability to be sensitive, tender, create a homely atmosphere and make our life a little more happy, no matter if they are black or of any other color.

 Yours sincerely,
Witchcraft and Literature

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Margarita's First Flight and Sabbath

Margarita applying a magical ointment
 In connection with the guest post "Margarita - a witch of a Russian descent" I continue to follow the venture of Bulgakov's character.

Margarita the witch
As it had been told, a newly turned witch Margarita heads towards the Sabbath. The Sabbath is a gathering of the witches during the full moon. This event takes place in the novel somewhere on the open grounds, far from  the Moscow city (this is where the story occurs), and Margarita has to reach it by riding her floor broom (a modified broomstick). While flying above the Arbat street she finds out that she is invisible and it gives her a certain amount of confidence. Margarita in anger breaks one of the street signs as she accidentally bumps into it, then flying further and higher she notices a "mass of a eight-storeyed house perhaps a newly built one", she is reminded of something by the board on it and enters the house's premises. She destroys the apartment of a critic who was involved in failure of the Master's writing career.
We can see that Margarita's nature changes. The belonging to the world of dark art makes Margarita to free herself and do things she always wanted to do but was afraid of even attempting. She becomes bold, defiant and even vengeful. This might be considered as a characteristic of a bad witch, however won't you behave the same in order to save your beloved?
The flight of Margarita is described by Bulgakov with such energy and beauty that many times while reading it I wish to try it once in a life myself... Margarita flies above the forests, fragrant meadows, cool ponds. The full moon is escorting Margarita all the way, after a fast ride she feels the proximity of water and later on sees a river and a glimpse of bonfire with small moving figures on the other bank. She then swims in the river's warm water and continues her way to another coast - towards the bonfire of Sabbath. Though Bulgakov doesn't call it so, I think that it is what meant to be.
an image to illustrate the story - couldn't fine the one with the full moon and fire
  As soon as Margarita appears the march is being played in her honour and all the witches bow, moroever she is called the Queen Margo now. The Sabbath gathers such creatures as goat-footed who offers Maragrita champagne, the mermaids (rusalka in Russian), the singing frogs and the witches themselves. The Sabbath in the novel presented as a cheerful event, where the participants dance, consume some wine, mermaids make roundelay and overall atmosphere is quiet pleasing.
Margarita is not at all scared of the sudden change of her life, she accepts it and goes with the flow. As I had told in the previous article, she seems to be a random choice of Woland but Koroviev (from the retinue of Woland) says to her: "... because you are yourself of the royal blood..." and gives few more hints which reveal that Margarita has one of the French Queens of XVI century as her ancestor! There are actually two French Queens who it could be related to: Marguerite de Navarre and Margaret of Valois. However, the latter is considered to be the one chosen by Bulgakov.
Our heroine lived one of the necessary events of the witches' life - Sabbath. Bulgakov's focus nevertheless is not on the witchcraft. itself but on the interpretation of powers hidden within us and the way we use them (or don't). The Margarita's journey hasn't come to an end yet as she still has a task to do after which she will get her Master back.
Bulgakov certainly knew a lot about witchcraft and described so many details of the rituals conducted during the Margarita's turning into a witch and afterwards. Sabbath was one of them. Another one called the great Ball at Satan's will be a culmination and one of the best written places in the novel. You are invited there too.
Yours sincerely,
Witchcraft and Literature

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Origin of Witchcraft - Seiðr Magic

Scandinavia... It sounds mystic for me and I remember that I used to be interested in Scandinavian mythology when I first got to know about it at school. Yet I don't know much about this historical region of northern Europe. I am sure there is a lot to explore about magic in Scandinavian culture.
Mythology is a huge and important part of every culture, especially in the origins of it. I'd like to go beyond term Scandinavia and explore witchcraft in Norse culture which will include not only Sweden, Denmark and Norway, but Germany, Iceland and Faroe Islands.
The very first term I happened upon while searching was Seiðr, a type of sorcerywhich was practiced in Norse society during Late Scandinavian Iron Age Seiðr relates to the Norse paganism, and according to the archaeological facts the beginning of Norse paganism can be attributed to 2300-500 BCE. The practitioners of this magic were called vǫlurseiðkonur and vísendakonaThe theme of Seiðr  appeared in sagas like Eric the Red and others later.
Seiðr was associated with the god Odin a deity who was responsible for war, poetry and sorcery... quiet diverse fields of influence. In many sources Seidr is considered to be a shamanic type of magic, where practitioners of it get inspiration from visionary journeys (b).
Three horns - a symbol of Odin
The etymology of the word Seiðr is unclear, however some of the authors of the book about Norse paganism give the following versions. According to the suggestion of this book the etymology goes to the Old High German and Old English and has equivalents in such words as "cord, string" and "snare, cord, halter" (b)    
The book explains very well with many examples from the Icelandic, North European folklore and mythology the thought behind such connection. With a cord one can not only bind things but also attract it and this is a characteristics of Seiðr. In Icelandic Seiðr tradition for example. Further thinking of the author leads to the assumption that the shamanic character of  Seiðr allows its performer's mind to be regarded as something spun like a thread or rope, something what a performer could send forth (b)
The author then explores the possibility of connection Seiðr magic with the concept of spinning. He says that it is widespread that magic wind can be a sorcerer's mind. "One's mind is one's breath". Then the author takes  the  examples from Saami (Northern Norway) legend, in which a woman who's husband sailed away didn't return by Christmas. The woman then went to the seashore and started spinning her distaff while saying the wind to turn and bring her husband back.
The magic of spinning a thread relates to Seiðr. Though the texts the author uses for proving his point of view are later than the High Middle Ages, however the theory of spinning in Seiðr magic finds its support in Viking's burial tradition. The Vikings used to bury their women with distaffs, some of them, as the author says, can belong to ones of the Seiðr. Hence mostly the practitioners of Seiðr were females because spinning was most characteristic women's work (b). 
 I shall add that the element of spinning, we can consider weaving too, is one of the ancient concepts. It can be found in many fairy tales and folklore stories (Sleeping beauty, Baba Yaga and Vasilisa the Brave).
a distaff beside the bed of Sleeping Beauty

Monday, 27 August 2012

My first guest post on A Witchy Life by Sita

 I am very much excited about first guest writing experience for a blog A Witchy Life by Sita. You can find the article here. The name of the post is "Margarita - a Witch of Russian descent". It narrates a  story of a witch from the novel by M.A. Bulgakov "The Master and Margarita". I hope you will like it and I am going to post about Margarita in my blog as well as her story still continues.

Yours sincerely,
Witchcraft and Literature