Have An Apple Tree? Get Out Your Toast!

Toast swinging from an apple tree. Richard Gillin/(CC BY-SA 2.0)

Toast swinging from an apple tree. Richard Gillin/(CC BY-SA 2.0.

I do have an apple tree, so I’ll have to get some bread toasted, have some nice cider to pour and drink, and make a lot of noise.

After the New Year’s champagne is drunk and the Christmas tree is set out on the curb, the holiday season feels emphatically over. But in many apple-growing regions, there’s still one last celebration in January. Instead of champagne, the drink is hard cider. And instead of decorating a chopped-down pine, revelers tromp into apple orchards to drink and encourage a good harvest.

Apple wassailing, which has origins in southeast and southwest England, features a procession to the best apple tree in the orchard. There, revelers sing to the tree, decorate it with slices of toast to feed good spirits (and birds), and shoot rifles to scare away demons. Christmas-carolers may be familiar with the term “wassail.” An old Anglo-Saxon term for “Be in good health,” it became shorthand for both carolling and a spiced hot drink, made with either ale or cider. While pouring cider around tree roots, everyone usually shares a fanciful bowl of wassail.

You can read more about these apple tree traditions at Atlas Obscura. They date back about 500 years, and no need to worry about having missed it:

Often, it’s celebrated on January 5, which is Twelfth Night, the last day of the Twelve Days of Christmas. But Twelfth Night used to be on January 17. When the British switched from the ancient Julian calendar to the Gregorian system, though, in 1752, many counties kept the tradition on the old date. (If you live in an apple-growing area, you can celebrate twice.)

Renaissance Superheroes.

These amazing photos rocked my world, and there are so many of them! These are not paintings, they are photographs. From Vintage News:

The project named  Super Flemish by Goldberger has created a series of photographs that portray ultimate pop culture characters of the caliber of Spiderman, Yoda or even villains such as Darth Vader, in a Flemish treatment. The photos largely resemble 16-th century paintings, and it has taken Sacha two years to complete the ambitious project. A team of twelve people has put efforts in making the flawless makeup, hair and special effects that can be noticed on the photographs.

“A lot of the job was done before and during the shoot. Pierrick and Sebastian, my digital retouchers, helped me to get the precision and the perfection I was looking for in this series,” says Sacha. “All of it was incredible; it was like a dream come true.”

“When you see the Hulk in front of you and you, ask him to look romantic, it’s crazy. The Joker was also very impressive. He endured three hours of make-up and started to act like Heath Ledger in the movie, The Dark Knight,”  adds the French photographer.

And from Sacha Goldberger’s site:

What if Superman was born in the sixteenth century?
And what if the Hulk was a Duke?
How might Van Eyck have portrayed Snow White?

Sacha’s discovery of these characters, which goes back to childhood, gave birth to a desire
to re-appropriate them, to take them back to a time forming the cornerstone of modern western art. Sacha wants to confront these icons of American culture with contemporary painters of the Flemish school. The collection demonstrates the use of 17 century techniques counterpointing light and shadow to illustrate nobility and fragility of the super powerful of all times. It also invites you to celebrate the heroes of your childhood. These characters have become icons to reveal their humanity: tired of having to save the world without respite, promised to a destiny of endless immortality, forever trapped in their character.
The superheroes often live their lives cloaked in anonymity. These portraits give them a chance to « fix » their narcissism denied. By the temporal disturbance they produce, these images allow us to discover, under the patina of time, an unexpected melancholy of those who are to be invincible.

As science fiction meets history of art, time meets an inexhaustible desire for mythology which is within each of us.

Oh, go have a wander and look at all of them! Super Flemish and Sacha Goldberger’s main page, and Flemish in the Stars (Renaissance Star Wars).  Look at everything! And thanks to PZ for yet another timesink, I really needed another one. (Just a pinch of sarcasm there…)

Consider Soul Cakes, Turnips, & The Plague.

If you want to do something a bit different, consider Soul Cakes. There’s a good recipe here. Rather than go with carving pumpkins, why not give the traditional turnip a go?

A traditional Irish Jack-o’-Lantern in the Museum of Country Life, Ireland.

And the latest issue of Medievalist has a costume idea:

A Plague Victim.

It’s easy costume to prepare: – use beet juice rubbed on your face to create a flushed look.  Buboes can easily be made from bread dough – use honey to attach to your underarms. Wear an old dress or other clothing you don’t mind getting dirty – this way you can fall to the floor groaning dramatically. You can take advantage of the conflicting theories about the black death and, when caught eating, claim an enormous appetite is a common symptom.  You can throw your ‘buboes ’ at people, both delighting them at your humour and disgusting them at the same time!

Edited to add: I’d have a blast with  that – I’d probably go with ready to bake biscuit dough, paint the outside with food colouring, then make a hole to pour in slightly whipped cream, tinted green and yellow with food colouring, then pinched mostly closed. If you threw one of those at someone, you could properly make them scream! :D

NY: Oddities Market.

If you are or can be in Brooklyn, NY on December 2nd or 3rd, get your tickets now for The Oddities Market. If you buy through Atlas Obscura, you get in before everyone else, so there’s the opportunity to grab the best of the odd.

A holiday market of the most curious kind, featuring the best purveyors of odd and unique gifts plus the promise of a visit from Krampus? This is a seasonal affair you won’t want to miss. And with this special VIP presale, offered exclusively though Atlas Obscura, you’ll gain first access to the holiday market before it’s opened to the general public.

Following the overwhelming success of the past two Oddities Markets, Ryan Matthew Cohn and his team are returning to the Brooklyn Bazaar for the Oddities Flea Market hosted in partnership with Atlas Obscura. Inside, you’ll find a wonderful assemblage of vendors bringing you all sorts of peculiar items perfect for gift-giving season. Feast your eyes on natural history items, taxidermy, jewelry, one-of-a-kind art, bizarre flair, strange literature, anatomical curiosities, and much more.

This ticket offers you a special experience available only with VIP access. We’ll open the doors early, from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m., to grant a select few first entry into the market. You’ll skip the lines, avoid the crowds, and have early access to the best selections of goods of 65 vendors, including many new vendors. And, even after the doors open to the public at 12 p.m., you can peruse as long as you wish.

You can read more at Atlas Obscura, and grab your tickets, too.

Still at the egg market…

and having fun. :D I’ve gotten so accustomed to doing gum arabic watercolours, I don’t know that I can ever go back to plain.

Meeting at the Egg Market © C. Ford, all rights reserved.

ETA: I was still undecided on the body colour for the being on the left; I decided to go with Charly’s characterisation of pony, so dappled gray.

© C. Ford, all rights reserved.

Sept. 20th: Grave Robbing 101 at Lincoln Park.

Here’s a fun thing to do on a Wednesday evening if you’re in the area:

When the area now known as Lincoln Park was City Cemetery during the 1840s to 1860s, it was a regular smorgasbord for grave robbers — medical schools tended to have a “no questions asked” policy, and a fresh cadaver could pay as much as a month in the coal mines.

Author and tour guide Adam Selzer leads “pupils” on a walking tour of Lincoln Park, showing relics of the old cemetery, a tomb snooping demonstration, and repeating stories and quotes from the archives about all of the body snatching that took place on the grounds — featuring enough tricks of the trade to launch your very own career. Humorous, entertaining, and educational as all get out.

Tickets are $20.00, and all the details are at Atlas Obscura.