The Aberdeen Bestiary: Fantastical Stories & Illustrations From The Middle Ages

The Aberdeen Bestiary - open book

The Aberdeen Bestiary, housed since the 1600s in Scotland’s University of Aberdeen, is now available online, complete with dazzling high-res images, translations of the original Latin, and notes from the university team about the book’s construction. Aberdeen’s volume is an exquisite example of a bestiary, which was an anthology of moral fables and allegories popular during the Middle Ages. Though the term “bestiary” has come to mean something closer to a zoological textbook — albeit usually featuring fantastical creatures, such as bestiaries accompanying works of Tolkien or Dungeons & Dragons playbooks — its earlier incarnation was not intended as a study of beasts so much as a study of the world as created by God, where every living thing had its own special meaning.

In some ways it is more analogous to a reference book of symbolism in dreams, depicting instead the symbolic language of animals in Western Christian art and literature. Yes, dragons and basilisks appear alongside magpies and tigers, but whether the people of the time “believed” in all of these beasts equally is a matter of scholarly debate — to a degree, this question of belief minimizes the tome’s magnificence both as a work of art and a work of literature, while also sidestepping the fact that prior to globalized travel and the Internet, a 12-century person might have been equally likely to see a tiger or a dragon in their lifetime. According to authors Cook and Herzman in Discovering the Middle Ages, people then “did not see the same break between themselves and their classical predecessors that modern observers see; rather, they saw continuity with themselves and the ancient world, using allegory as a synthesizing agent that brings together a whole image.”

The Aberdeen Bestiary - Folio 32v - the turtle dove, continued. De palma; the palm tree

The Aberdeen Bestiary – Folio 32v – the turtle dove, continued. De palma; the palm tree

“The fact that the she-wolf gives birth when the thunder first sounds in the month of May signifies the Devil, who fell from heaven at the first display of his pride. The fact that its strength lies in its forequarters and not in its hindquarters also signifies the Devil, who was formerly the angel of light in heaven, but has now been made an apostate below. The wolf’s eyes shine in the night like lamps because the works of the Devil seem beautiful and wholesome to blind and foolish men.” – excerpt from The Aberdeen Bestiary

The Aberdeen Bestiary - A bat

The Aberdeen Bestiary – A bat

A particularly compelling element of The Aberdeen Bestiary is the detailed way in which it has been presented. The original document contains “notes, sketches, and other evidence of the way it was designed and executed,” and the 345 images uploaded by the University of Aberdeen show pricking marks, paint fragments, and fingerprints indicating the book’s historical usage, captured via specialized photographic techniques. Most pages have worn patches at the top and bottom corners, suggesting a reader holding the book and turning its pages, but at least one of the illustrations has an additional worn patch in the center of the top margin, where a teacher might smudge it with their thumb while displaying the illustration to students. It is highly likely that bestiaries were more commonly used as teaching aides in monasteries than as books of entertainment, a fact supported also by the accent marks penciled in above many words, assisting someone in reading the stories aloud.

The Aberdeen Bestiary - Folio 36v - De pica; the magpie

The Aberdeen Bestiary – Folio 36v – De pica; the magpie

Several folios towards the end of the bestiary pertain to precious stones, which are treated here as if there is nothing strange in their inclusion. As in the sections devoted to beasts real and mythical, many of the observations “may be quite accurate but … are given the same weight as totally fabulous accounts.” For example, an amethyst is described as “the colour of a violet or a drop of red wine,” as well as easy to shatter. The verdict? “If it were rarer, it would be more valuable.” In contrast, the lodestone entry starts with a reasonable-seeming line about appearance and then goes on to say that “if a man wants to know if his wife is chaste or not, he should place the stone under her head when she is asleep; if she is chaste, she will embrace him warmly; otherwise, she will fall from the bed as if struck by a hand; this happens because of the odour of the stone.”

The Aberdeen Bestiary - A mole

The Aberdeen Bestiary – A mole

Each image in The Aberdeen Bestiary is done in rich and bold colors, with blues and reds being common choices amidst the gold detailing and fine black lines. Codicology, or the study of early manuscript books, plays an important role here alongside another facet of the book’s peculiarity, which is that it was never completed. In a finished tome, many things like evidence of pricking — where “tiny parallel pinpricks were made on the outer and inner edges of each page and horizontal lines ruled between them,” accounting for the straight lines of the text — would have been clipped off or obscured, along with other clues to the bestiary’s production and provenance. Instead, The Aberdeen Bestiary exposes much of its skeleton: the black text done first, with the scribe returning later for rubrics (the red letters starting off each chapter) and the meticulous initials featured on many of the pages. Most who have studied The Aberdeen Bestiary agree that the illustrations were likely the work of a single artist, though some details can be interpreted as evidence to the contrary. The folds of drapery are not always depicted consistently, nor are heads always in proportion to bodies; there is even discussion of which king’s head is most “competent” in its execution. It’s impossible to know whether this dissonance implies multiple artists or simply one artist affected by different moods, but it is delightful to guess.

The Aberdeen Bestiary - Folio 61v - the eagle, continued

The Aberdeen Bestiary – Folio 61v – the eagle, continued

Browse the full bestiary here, courtesy of the University of Aberdeen.

The Aberdeen Bestiary - Folio 37r - the magpie, continued. De corvo; the raven

The Aberdeen Bestiary – Folio 37r – the magpie, continued. De corvo; the raven

The Aberdeen Bestiary - Folio 8v - Tiger, continued. De pardo; the pard

The Aberdeen Bestiary – Folio 8v – Tiger, continued. De pardo; the pard

The Aberdeen Bestiary - Folio 65r - the perindens tree, continued

The Aberdeen Bestiary – Folio 65r – the perindens tree, continued

The Aberdeen Bestiary - Folio 68v - De scitali serpente; Of the snake called scitalis. De anphivena; Of the anphivena. De ydro; Of the ydrus.

The Aberdeen Bestiary – Folio 68v – De scitali serpente; Of the snake called scitalis. De anphivena; Of the anphivena. De ydro; Of the ydrus.

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Elemental Child: Space Ritual

Elemental Child: Space Ritual photographed by Courtney Brooke

Inspired by the point in rock n roll history where medieval and sci-fi genres dominated the 1970s rock genre, Elemental Child has launched their new collection, Space Ritual.

Introducing cast metal into their crystal crowns and adding jewelry designs to the range, designer Gillian Chadwick has expanded the range dramatically with Space Ritual. Fulfilling all of your space fairy elf fantasies, this collection conveys the feeling that the distant past has met the distant future.

The Space Ritual collection is available now at Elemental Child’s shop.

Elemental Child: Space Ritual photographed by Courtney Brooke

Elemental Child: Space Ritual photographed by Courtney Brooke

Elemental Child: Space Ritual photographed by Courtney Brooke

Elemental Child: Space Ritual photographed by Courtney Brooke

Elemental Child: Space Ritual photographed by Courtney Brooke

Elemental Child: Space Ritual photographed by Courtney Brooke

Elemental Child: Space Ritual photographed by Courtney Brooke

Elemental Child: Space Ritual photographed by Courtney Brooke

Elemental Child: Space Ritual photographed by Courtney Brooke

Elemental Child: Space Ritual photographed by Courtney Brooke

Elemental Child: Space Ritual photographed by Courtney Brooke

Elemental Child: Space Ritual photographed by Courtney Brooke

Elemental Child: Space Ritual photographed by Courtney Brooke

Elemental Child: Space Ritual photographed by Courtney Brooke

Elemental Child: Space Ritual photographed by Courtney Brooke

Elemental Child: Space Ritual photographed by Courtney Brooke

Elemental Child: Space Ritual photographed by Courtney Brooke

Elemental Child: Space Ritual photographed by Courtney Brooke

Elemental Child: Space Ritual photographed by Courtney Brooke

Poison Apple Printshop

Poison Apple Printshop

Run by artist Adrienne Rozzi, Poison Apple Printshop creates otherworldly artwork and accoutrements that draw you into a realm of arcane knowledge and dark wonderment. With original illustrations that evoke an old-world nostalgia, Poison Apple Printshop brings you fine art prints, patches, apparel, giftwrap, cards, and one-of-a-kind items, carefully screen printed by hand for all manner of strange folk.

Today is the final day to take advantage of a generous discount of 20% using code “FROST” storewide, excluding only the Hedge Witch’s Herbal Grimoire.

Poison Apple Printshop

Poison Apple Printshop

Poison Apple Printshop

Poison Apple Printshop

Poison Apple Printshop

Poison Apple Printshop

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The Haute List

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Yugo Wedge Boot, $219.95 $175.96  +  Front Cape Midi, $49  +  Moon Phases Knee Socks, $12

Lost Ink Shirt Dress, $70  +  Lace Top Dobby Maxi, $83  +  Harness Detail Maxi, $46 $29

Tiered Frill Maxi, $76  +  Bell Sleeve Skater Dress, $64  +  High Neck Midi, $203

Black Friday : Meet the Sponsors

Apatico

Apatico

Apatico is a fashion brand by Seattle based designer Megan Bishop. Specializing in both fine millinery, leatherwork, and PVC accessories (headpieces, crowns, harnesses, collars, etc) with a focus on her work has been featured in Marie Claire, Elle, Elle Canada, and Teen Vogue among others. Her aesthetic is primarily “all black everything”, but also includes pops of bright, holo iridescent PVC.

Apatico will be 40% off sitewide today, Friday, November 25, with free worldwide shipping on Saturday and Sunday, and 30% off sitewide on Monday.

Visit the Apatico Shop, and follow Apatico on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter

Baphomats

Baphomats

Baphomats (est 2015) is a micro business operating out of southern Australia. We create yoga mats that break the mould of gooey spirituality and embrace a darker aesthetic. The company is run by a husband (Brad, an artist) and wife (Chloe, a yoga teacher). Our mat designs are hand drawn in-house, and screen printed by another small local business. Screens are UV cured by the sun, and non-toxic ink has been used for the graphics. Our mats are hard wearing, have good grip, are nice and spongey and include a handy carry strap. Baphomats are for anyone who flows to black metal, worships the breath, and loves to howl at the moon. Welc-OM to the dark side!

Visit the Baphomats Shop, and follow Baphomats on Instagram

Birds N Bones

Birds N Bones Jewelry

Birds N Bones Jewelry‘s Zoe Cope and Ashley Lagasse met while in a small metals casting class at the Academy of Art University. After realizing they each had an individual box of dead things in their lockers, they figured they should probably be friends. As the semester progressed, many of their molds had a similar aesthetic, as that they were almost always of different animal bones and parts. Both Zoe and Ashley were usually at the school studio until it closed and the idea of creating a collection together happened organically. Forged in burns, hammered fingers, accidentally melted silver, and late night pizza runs, their budding jewelry skills and friendship grew over four years.

Consider Birds N Bones pieces to be the special elements in your jewelry arsenal. The ones you wear to feel powerful, strong, magical, and even mystical. Their pieces aren’t just for adornment, they are created to fit seamlessly into your life be it at work, getting coffee, making art, traveling, or even casting spells. Each piece is handcrafted in their studios, Zoe’s in Portland Oregon and Ashley’s in Brooklyn New York.

Visit the Birds N Bones Jewelry Shop, and follow them on Instagram and Facebook.

Chase and Scout

Chase and Scout

Chase and Scout creates original amulets and talismans for the modern witch and strange fellow. Using hand selected gems and reclaimed metals, Chase and Scout jewelry is inspired by both the natural, and hidden worlds. Each design allows the wearer to ascribe their own meaning to create a very personal object.

Visit the Chase and Scout Shop, and follow Chase and Scout on Instagram and Facebook.

Contrived to Charm

Contrived to Charm

Contrived to Charm by Tiffany Crabtree Hand~crafted luxury in leather, Specializing in custom leather belts, hand bags, Tarot Cases and unique accessories. Our New brick n’ mortar shop carries a curated array of Antiques and Collectibles, Vintage Clothing and Accessories, local independent artists work, as well as Candles, Soaps, Perfume, Esoteric and Unique Gifts, and so much more! Located in Historic Downtown Vista, California, Contrived to Charm Brand Leather goods are made on site! You may also shop our Etsy Shop and use code “SeasonsCompliments” for a 15% discount at checkout!

Visit the Contrived to Charm flagship shop at 135 E Broadway Ave Vista Ca 92084 (760) 726-4680
Store Hours: Wednesday-Saturday 11-6pm

Shop online on Etsy and follow Contrived to Charm on Instagram, and Facebook.

Fiendies

Fiendies

Combining their obsession with the occult, ancient arcane mysteries and the desire to uncover the unknown, they have unearthed the mysterious realm that is Fiendies! Specializing in handcrafted relics used for seance, divination and decoration. They invite you to explore their collection of engraved wooden spirit boards, planchettes, crystal grids & pendulum boards are just a few of the treasures to be discovered.

Visit the Fiendies Shop, and follow Fiendies on Instagram.

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FloridxFauna

Taking inspiration from forms of nature and the darker side of avant garde fashion, floridxfauna was launched in 2014 by Los Angeles based designer Kristen Phillips with the release of her first collection, Crystal Ossuary. In each handmade piece, rugged geometric planes of crystal give way to the worn organic curve of bone. A modern memento mori, a meditation on the beauty of nature, or original wearable art, the interpretation and significance of each object rests with you, the wearer.

Since Crystal Ossuary’s initial release, limited edition designs and colorways have been added to the collection. Each piece is made to order and cast in eco-resin, a more environmentally friendly, bio-based alternative to traditional petroleum based resins. Floridxfauna’s second collection is currently in production; it will include jewelry, accessories, headdresses, and masks that share a common design element.

Use code “hautefauna” for 20% off your entire order Friday 11/25 through Monday 11/28 at floridxfauna.com or at Etsy.com/shop/floridxfauna

Visit the FloridxFauna Shop, and follow FloridxFauna on Instagram and Tumblr.

La Dama Luna

La Dama Luna

Alejandra López Camarillo has created the realm of La Dama Luna as a creative outlet for various types of media. She enjoys (and loses sleep over) drawing, photography, graphic arts, crafts and jewelry. She gathers inspiration from a multitude of diverse sources. La Dama Luna was launched the evening of the full moon in October and is gradually expanding to offer a diverse range of products.

Visit the La Dama Luna Shop, and follow La Dama Luna on Instagram, and Tumblr,

LostBookFound

Lost Book Found

I am a full time professional picture framer, as well as a lover of the beautiful and the bazaar in books and art. The production quality of vintage book illustrations is most often unparalleled today, and the massive amount of breathtaking images hiding within torn and cracked bindings are an exciting treasure to unbury. With LostBookFound I am able to bring together my craft and my love into a cohesive project; to share and also protect these finds. By salvaging and framing these illustrations, I can let a past book story find new life on your walls. There is magic in these pages and I hope you experience that too.

Visit the LostBookFound Shop, and follow LostBookFound on Instagram.

ROHMY

ROHMY

As braided ropes run like a common thread through all creations, the term “Ropework Couture” best describes the signature style of the German brand ROHMY. Inspired by the drapery of the statues of ancient Greek and Roman goddesses, the wedding and evening dresses in ROHMY Gold Label contain classical, elegant and romantic looks. In ROHMY Black Label the draped asymmetrical silhouettes have a darker, more avant-garde, edgy and contemporary appearance.

Myriam, the designer behind ROHMY is a Karlsruhe- born talent who grew up with her sister and musician parents in a small village in the Black Forest region. After her graduation as a bespoke tailor she studied fashion design and eventually worked as a freelance designer and pattern maker. In the beginning, she made her living mainly with commissioned work like creating historical costumes for museums and television documentaries, before she designed, photographed and published her first collection online.

In 2012 a few one of a kind pieces were offered in small designer boutiques in Germany and Singapore, until she opened her Etsy shop in 2013. Every garment will be made to order by Myriam in her studio in Karlsruhe. The customer can choose the colors of the fabric and ropes as well as talk about changing details like for example dress length and sleeve design. In addition to the bespoke pieces, the designer sells sample dresses at reduced prices on occasion.

Visit the ROHMY Shop, and follow ROHMY on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and the ROHMY Blog

Sacred Fog

Sacred Fog

FOG is a sacred apothecary balancing energy through chakras, moon phases, spirit animals, and light + shadow work. FOG has an affinity with the darker aspects of healing, which is explored in various anointing oils and balms. Products are smudged with sage at their birth and are nurtured with crystals, reiki, and natural, organic, or wildcrafted ingredients.

Visit the Sacred Fog Shop, and follow Sacred Fog on Instagram.

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Solstice Scents

Solstice Scents specializes in hyper-realistic evocative atmospheres and amber, incense and resin blends for men and women. A variety of woods/forest, tobacco, leather, floral and gourmand fragrances are also offered. Fragrances pictured are Conjure Dark (amber, sandalwood, frankincense, spices, incense, wood smoke, cedar, oud, vanilla), Astral Temple (amber, ginger, orange, clove, patchouli, vetiver, frankincense), Scrying Smoke (natural and meditative melting frankincense resin, frankincense smoke, vanilla, sandalwood, cedar, petigrain, vetiver, labdanum & much more) and Inquisitor (resinous blend of leather, labdanum, beeswax, frankincense, benzoin, palo santo, vetiver & fire). 60 ml Eau de Parfums, 5 ml cobalt glass roll ons, 2.5 ml EdP sample sprays and 1 ml sample 5 and 10 packs are available at SolsticeScents.com.

Visit the Solstice Scents Shop, and follow Solstice Scents on Instagram, Twitter, and on the Solstice Scents Forum.

The Art of Cory Benhatzel

The Art of Cory Benhatzel
In the occult animal kingdom that Cory Benhatzel has created, she paints the ghostly creatures she’s wanted to see since she was a child.  With her new line of affordable treasures called Häxa (Swedish for Witch), the artist continues to show the power of both animals and the occult in the forms of pins, patches, apparel and more.  Are you a Häxa?

Visit The Art of Cory Benhatzel Shop, and follow The Art of Cory Benhatzel on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Etsy.

The Curious Card Co

The Curious Card Company

The Curious Card Company was born under a maelstrom of vivid stars and midnight geekery beside the worn sidings of a black and gold circus tent. Spit and glitter and the smell of popcorn, her first welcome into the world…

…She danced under gaslight and cried with the moon. Taken tea with great pageantry and caviar with the captain of the eighth sea. Traveling on her pantomime horse bringing back the curiously dark, and the darkly curious. Back to you sweet dreamlets, for greeting cards you will treasure long after they’ve been gifted…

The Curious Card Company is an Australian based, online design studio, producing luxury eco-friendly greeting cards, featuring such delights as the Gothic Wiccan Macabre, the darkly Botanical & Anatomical, and the classic Vintage Circus of yesteryear.

Visit The Curious Card Company Shop, and follow The Curious Card Company on Instagram and Facebook.

Urban Body Jewelry

Urban Body Jewelry

Urban Body Jewelry has a unique selection of jewelry including plugs, ear tapers,
ear stretching kits, nipple rings, nose rings, septum clickers, belly rings, lip rings and more!
Over 2,000 products to pick from. Domestic orders over $20 receive free shipping.
Receive 10% off your order with code: MAC10

Visit the Urban Body Jewelry Shop, and follow Urban Body Jewelry on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

Velvet Garden

Velvet Garden

Velvet Garden is the web’s largest gothic fashion marketplace, where you can buy -OR- sell new and gently used gothic and alternative clothing, shoes, accessories, jewelry, books, art, home decor and more!

Compared to eBay or other auction sites, Velvet Garden lets you keep your items up for ONE FULL YEAR and only charges a small, one-time listing fee of 10% of your asking price. Selling on Velvet Garden is easy! You can decide your own selling and shipping terms, you don’t need to give your your credit card information, and you never have to worry about conforming to a giant list of ever-changing rules to sell your items on Velvet Garden.

Having been in business for over 15 years, Velvet Garden has a large, wonderfully dedicated community of buyers that receive a weekly e-mail update of all the newly listed items, so all of the marketing is done for you!

Visit the Velvet Garden Shop, and follow Velvet Garden on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Yosiell Lorenzo

Yosiell Lorenzo

As a young child in the New England area, Yosiell Lorenzo was surrounded with authentic Victorian architecture, old colonial haunted houses, and the stories of Salem witches. His work draws inspiration from these early influences, reflecting the darker elements of the human condition and the mysteries of the supernatural world. Yosiell’s shop is an extension of this, a place where he translates his art into tote bags, prints, divination tools, and other esoteric goods.

Yosiell’s “The Orphan’s Spirit Boards” are available to pre-order throughout this weekend only, ending at midnight on Monday, November 28

Visit the Yosiell Lorenzo Shop, and follow Yosiell Lorenzo on Instagram and Facebook.

 

Burial Ground In Post

I Held My Own Death Cafe And You Can Too

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Art credit: Becky Munich

A memory from a visit to my grandparent’s house when I was in my early twenties: My grandfather was still alive then, and he had endeavored to gather my sisters and I together for what was to be a Serious Conversation. We perched anxiously upon their saggy, sage green sofa, clutching scratchy, decorative throw pillows in our laps while my grandmother fidgeted nearby with the frayed edges of a napkins, appearing similarly frayed and on edge, herself.

“When your grandmother and I die…” he settled back in his chair and began the discussion, but trailed off uncertainly, while my sisters and I gripped hands and swallowed dryly, tears already streaming down our cheeks before he’d even said ten words. A stack of papers, several thick envelopes, and three notepads sat at his feet, untouched.

What followed was an awkward, sad, and terribly incomplete attempt on the part of my grandparents to prepare us for a time when they would no longer be around for us. I don’t blame this failure on them, of course. At the ages of 20, 22, and 24, my sisters and I almost had no experience at all with death, save for an uncle we barely knew and the grandparents on our father’s side, with whom we had no relationship. It was not a topic that was ever discussed in any capacity in our house or amongst ourselves until someone was, well…dead.

And even then, no one talked about it. It was sort of like, “well, THAT happened”, and life moved on. We never visited our feelings on whoever it was who had passed on, we certainly never weighed in on any decisions regarding the deceased, and come to think of it, we never actually attended any funerals. Whatever we knew of death was from books or film–Beaches and Steel Magnolias, primarily. And you can only watch Sally Field standing over Julia Robert’s grave having a magnificent nervous breakdown so many times before you decide, “nope, death’s not for me, not gonna deal with it, don’t want any part of that.”

But you have to deal with it, you eventually have no choice in the matter, and I came to learn this as I grew older. Being the oldest among my siblings, many responsibilities and obligations fall to me–also, being human, I don’t exactly relish this position. Most of the time, I rather resent it.  And so I wish that I had summoned the strength and willingness to listen when my grandfather took the time to initiate that chat with us. He obviously didn’t want to have that talk, but he knew it was important and I should have had the foresight to realize that beyond the pain of losing someone, there is a lot of work to be done as relates to the dying process and death of a loved one…and sooner or later the work and related duties would fall to me. Wouldn’t it have been better to steel myself, open my heart, and allow this man who always wanted the best for me, to educate me on what to expect when he and my grandmother bid farewell to this world–rather than to have it thrust upon me blindly when it was too late?

I wish that death, as a concept and a reality, had been more present in our conversations, and from earlier on; that someone had drilled into me that death does not wait for you to have all your ducks in a row; that one cannot be terrified of death and avoid addressing it unless absolutely necessary; that the cycle of life and death that exists not just for me, but in all of nature and throughout the entire universe; that contemplating any or all of these things is not depressing, morbid, or neurotic, and as a matter of fact, a regular contemplation of death and a practice of “death awareness” can lead to greater happiness and a deeper appreciation of life.

Enter Death Cafe.

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Photo credit: S. Elizabeth

While death is inevitable, discussions about it are often taboo in American culture; wouldn’t it be something truly special then, to be able to gather with like-minded people in a safe space, in order to have these conversations?

This is the purpose of a Death Cafe; where people drink tea, eat cake and discuss death, the aim of which is “to increase awareness of death to help people make the most of their (finite) lives.”  The Death Cafe model was developed by Jon Underwood and Sue Barsky Reid, based on the ideas of Bernard Crettaz, and is a group directed discussion of death with no agenda, objectives or themes.

Death Cafes are always offered on a not for profit basis, in an accessible, respectful and confidential space, with no intention of leading people to any conclusion, product or course of action, and alongside refreshing drinks and nourishing food. Curious as to where you can find a local Death Cafe to check out for yourself? As of today there have been 3827 Death Cafes in 40 countries and on their site you can find a map of previously held as well as upcoming Death Cafe events in your area, should you wish to attend one yourself.

In 2014 when I first learned of the concept, I, too, was curious and would have liked to attend a Death Cafe local to me in Orlando, Florida; unfortunately the closest one was a three hour drive away. Did I wish to attend so badly that I’d be willing to weather a cross-state trip, or, did I want to overcome my social anxiety for an afternoon and hold my own Death Cafe closer to home? Because that is totally an option, if you are up for it.  Death Cafe is a ‘social franchise’, meaning that people who sign up to their guide and principles can use the name Death Cafe, post events to their website and talk to the press as an affiliate of Death Cafe. Was I up for it? Only one way to find out!

On May 17, 2014, I overcame my crippling fear of other people for an afternoon and held Orlando’s inaugural Death Cafe in my sister’s living room. I invited friends and strangers to an intimate gathering with the intended purpose of opening up the conversation on death in a respectful and friendly atmosphere where folks can express their views about death & dying and share engaging, thought provoking and life affirming conversation. I implored them to bring their questions and stories, their curiosity and experiences, but most of all–an open mind …and an appetite for cake and delicious treats!

Energized and exhilarated by the successful facilitation of 11 strangers showing up in a place to talk about death and eat cookies, during the following years of 2014-2016 I held three more Death Cafes in Orlando, one of which garnered attention from The Orlando Sentinel, and I am now working to promote interest for a Death Cafe in Daytona Beach, (which is where I live currently.)

If you, like me, are super jazzed about talking to a room full of random people about death and stuff, and are not able to find a local Death Cafe to do so, why not hold your own? The Death Cafe site has a comprehensive guide for this purpose, but sometimes it’s helpful to have personal tips and helpful pointers from an actual human someone who has been to there and done the thing.

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1. Seriously. Read the Death Cafe How To Guide. It’s an excellent resource, and it’s there for a reason. Start there and come back here when you are done. Be certain to sign up on the site, agree to their terms and conditions, and familiarize yourself with their principals. Set up a profile for yourself, check out the practitioner’s page to see the kinds of questions that have been asked before and which may have garnered some helpful answers, and take a peek at some Death Cafe write ups to get a sense of what you’re in for!

2. Find a mentor. When I announced on my personal facebook page that I had an interest in holding my own Death Cafe, I came to learn through crowd-sourcing my questions to the hive-mind that there were people I knew, or friends of people I know, who had already done so! Through subsequent DMs, emails and phone calls, I learned so much from these generous people. If you can connect with someone who has had experience holding or hosting or facilitating a Death Cafe–talk to them! Ask them questions! See if they have any advice or stories or suggestions that they’d like to share.

3. Drumming up interest. Post about your upcoming Death Cafe event on the Death Cafe site (here’s an example). Share it across social media: facebook, twitter, tumblr, pinterest, instagram, google+, ello–wherever. Believe it or not, attendees from my first Death Cafe found me via posts on tumblr and Instagram! Post flyers at nearby college campuses if you are able to do so, or at your library, share with your church or spiritual group, reach out to your local news sources. Talk to people. Invite your open-minded friends and neighbors and acquaintances and urge them to bring a friend. You will find interest in the most unlikely places.

4. Decide on a venue that you are comfortable with. Death Cafes can be held in a variety of spaces–people’s homes, cafes and restaurants, community spaces, parks. etc.  Personally, I want to provide an environment for attendees that feels safe and cozy, and so I have always held Death Cafes in residential homes…but your mileage may vary! Death Cafes could be held in actual, literal cafes or coffee shops, or perhaps a meeting room in a nearby library; I’ve even heard of them being held in yarn shops, book stores, or comic shops…and of course, cemeteries!

5. Don’t spend a lot of money! If you go the route of holding a Death Cafe in a restaurant, obviously food and refreshments are available for people to purchase. However, if you choose to hold your Death Cafe in a community space, or a home, then you are going to have to provide some food and drink and implements for which to eat and sup. If you know some local bakers or caterers and can finagle a donation or two, that’s great! You should introduce me. Otherwise, bake a treat or two yourself (might I suggest Irish Wake Cake or Funeral Biscuits), set up some bottles of water and a jug of iced tea, and let your guests know that refreshments are potluck and they should bring a dish to share. Encourage them to think of a food or a recipe that has a memory or a story attached to it, which always makes for pleasant chatter when strangers are meeting for the first time and nibbling on delightful foodstuffs. I don’t think I can stress enough the importance of delicious goodies  to nourish and fortify your guests –cozying up so closely with Death for an afternoon, as you can imagine, leaves a soul a mite peckish.

6. Don’t freak out! Does the idea of a room full of people meeting without the structure of specific topics, set questions and/or guest speakers make your knees go wobbly? Me too, friend, me too. But just go with it. Resist the urge to create flash cards with subject matter keynotes–giving extra input or setting too much of an agenda “risks being presumptuous, restrictive and/or disempowering”, and trust me, when it comes to death, people have enough to discuss already.  Get everyone started by telling them about Death Cafe, what it is, how it got started, and its basic principals, just to make sure everyone understands what its all about, and to give them some guidelines. Ask attendees to introduce themselves and share what brought them to Death Cafe today. So much of the discussion springs up from just that alone, and will no doubt continue sparked from enthusiastic threads of resultant chatter.

7. Don’t worry that you are not qualified. You are mortal, just like everyone else. We’re all going to die one day! What higher qualification does one need to hold a Death Cafe?

8. Have a really awesome guest book on hand for your attendees to sign. What! I’m not joking. So many great conversations arose around our Handbook For The Recently Deceased!

Just this autumn, I passed the Death Cafe Orlando torch to a passionate former attendee who is now taking the reigns, and in the next few months I will be present at their Death Cafe Orlando as an actual participating guest. What fun! I wonder what it will be like from the other side?

I also wonder now, if my grandfather were still alive today, would I share with him all of the death & dying related work I have been doing for the past two years, and what would he think of that? Hearkening back to our initial conversation on matters of mortality and practicality, began in earnest with the best of intentions on his part, yet stunted by my own anxieties, discomfort and lack of experience…I think he’d pick up a notebook, settle back in his chair, and listen intently.

Burial Ground In Post

 

A Mortician’s Tale: Death-Positive Gaming

A Mortician's Tale - death-positive gaming

If you’ve never considered yourself a lover of video games, that all is about to change. Inspired by Caitlin Doughty and The Order Of The Good Death, A Mortician’s Tale is a narrative-driven game set in the fictional Rose And Daughters Funeral Home — it’s also a nail in the coffin of unimaginative first-person-shooters as de facto video game experience. The creator behind A Mortician’s Tale is Gabby DaRienzo, who originally designed a simple pixel art prototype she called Mortuary Simulator. As proved by the success of The Order Of The Good Death, though, people are hungry for a way to connect with mortality in a way that isn’t sterilized or hackneyed and so DaRienzo decided to craft A Mortician’s Tale into a full interactive experience. The game is currently in development at Laundry Bear Games, which DaRienzo co-founded with Andrew Carvalho, and is slated for release in 2017. At least something to look forward to, right?

A Mortician's Tale - death-positive gaming

The recent rise of female-designed games exploring death and the body is a welcome one. In an article for A MAZE Magazine’s Death Issue, DaRienzo says that video games are the perfect medium “for getting the player to directly deal with things like death.” In A Mortician’s Tale, players take on the role of recent graduate and new Rose And Daughters employee Charlie as she goes through all the day-to-day tasks of working at a funeral home, from preparing cadavers to meeting with the deceased’s family.

A Mortician's Tale - death-positive gaming

Part of what makes this game “death positive” is that nothing is intended to frighten or traumatize. Rather, A Mortician’s Tale works to normalize death, which has become culturally-obscured and mysterious as the advent of modern hospitals removed it from the public sphere. Where in the past a person would likely die in their own bed and be prepared for burial by family members rather than by strangers, the modern death industry has turned a ritual of recognition and grieving into one of aberration. We are scared of hospitals, reluctant as children to visit dying grandparents in the white rooms with their tubes and shaking hands. We discuss the virtues of burial versus cremation but not what death is likely to look like in a future where even a return to old “death values” is not the answer — for many of us, the nuclear family model no longer serves. Will we die alone, or in urban housing like the Baba Yagas retirement movement started in France? How do we deal with loss? A Mortician’s Tale is a piece of that puzzle: “an informative, honest, and sometimes humorous look at the current state of and the future of the Western death industry.”

A Mortician's Tale - death-positive gaming

In the game, players follow Charlie’s career at Rose And Daughters as it transitions from a family-run business to one owned by a massive funeral conglomerate. They will have access to all parts of the funeral home, from the viewing room to the morgue, and will prepare bodies for burials and cremations using realistic tools and detailed processes. Moreover, they will meet with the deceased’s family and absorb different methods of loss and remembrance, reflection and sorrow. A Mortician’s Tale is an intimate look at a cultural taboo; even those curious about rather than frightened of death currently face a lack of both information and “appropriate” venues for acquiring it. We are steered away from being “grief vultures” or pronounced “morbid”; when we experience it we are told to “get over it” and “move on.” DaRienzo’s game is a type of moving on: one that takes us from a world where artifice and obfuscation preside to one where the grave — whatever shape it holds — is no longer a dirty word.

A Mortician's Tale - death-positive gaming

Keep up with A Mortician’s Tale via the Laundry Bear website, and follow Gabby DaRienzo on Twitter and at The Play Dead Podcast, where she talks with developers about how they’re using death in their games.

A Mortician's Tale - death-positive gaming

Burial Ground In Post

Art That Creeps: The Sculptures of Rebecca De Groot

rebecca-de-groot-family-portrait

Artist and art teacher Rebecca De Groot creates delightfully sinister works of functional art. From small objects to large tables, her wooden sculptures stand on delicate insectoid legs, each poised to skitter or skulk away the moment their owners aren’t looking. That is, unless they’d rather inch closer.

rebecca-de-groot-spider

rebecca-de-groot-table-and-creatures

De Groot’s sculptures are primarily made of wood (some feature metalwork as well), but they’re so utterly transformed by her painstaking process of shaping and sanding that they ultimately lose their resemblance to anything of this world and become wonderfully alien.

“You may look at my work and see a piece of wooden art; I see time, energy, sweat, and probably blood put into a part of who I am as an artist. My work reflects my habit of overachieving. It’s not just a bowl; it also has a working tambour. It may not just be a table, but something that looks as though it walked off the set of a Sci-Fi film. Others may sand to 180, but I’ll sand past 320. I move my work past acceptable to make it extraordinary.”

rebecca-de-groot-table

Although they often seem to share the same otherworldly DNA, no two of De Groot’s sculptures are exactly alike. Some feature defensive spikes, some appear as though they’ll soon release spores, and others silently wait for their tendrils to gently brush against you as you pass, simply to find out how you taste.

rebecca-de-groot-sculpture-trio

The number of legs on each wooden creature varies quite a bit. But no matter their size, each pieces appears very nimble. They can probably steal up walls and across ceilings as easily as crossing the floor. This is artwork one shouldn’t turn one’s back on, which is part of why we love it.

rebecca-de-groot-tripod-table

Listen closely and you can almost hear Delia Deetz lamenting, “If only I’d gotten into woodworking…”

rebecca-de-groot-creature-trio

rebecca-de-groot-card-holder-and-bowl

Follow Rebecca De Groot on Instagram or Facebook to keep up with her latest creations.

[h/t: Nerd Approved and Make:]

Burial Ground In Post

The Haute List

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Claire Sneaker, $129.95 $77.96  +  Julieta Platform, $124.95  +  Avalon Boot, $299.95 $179.96

Tell Tale Tunic, $128 $76.80  +  Wreath Lace Dress, $495 $179  +  Scuba Leggings, $49.90

Portrait Backpack, $215  +  Leather Harness, $250  +  Kimono Cardigan, $29.99

Rituel de Fille: Rare Light Luminizer

Rituel de Fille: Rare Light Luminizer

Inspired by “extraordinary light phenomena”, Rituel de Fille’s latest release is a three piece collection of highlighters, Rare Light Luminizers.

Available in a set or individually, the three shades are Ghost Light, a cool-toned pale pink with a shift of violet blue, Anthelion, a gold with a subtle red-orange highlight, and Phosphene, a soft, pale beige glow with a hint of a peachy-blush shift. Each shade has Rituel de Fille’s signature subtle lavendar scent, which I always find calming and soft when I first apply their products, and it disappates before it becomes overwhelming.

I’ve been using them now for a few weeks, and I am surprisingly impressed by them. I say surprisingly only because these are a cream based product, which I haven’t always loved in the past. Cream blushes and contours are always extremely harsh on me, perhaps because I’m fair toned, but this works in favor of these highlights. I’ve previously used cream highlights and have had to apply a powder highlight over it for them to really stand out, but this isn’t the case with the Rare Light Lumizers. I have not used these on my eyelids, so I can’t say if they are safe or not (I’d say no, only because I am apprehensive always of applying any product with a scent to my lids), but my cheekbones look like they could cut glass when I have this on. My favorite shade in the collection has been Ghost Light, which wears as a opalescent violet on my skin tone.

Rituel de Fille’s Rare Light Lumizers are available now on their website, and in select retailers.

Rituel de Fille: Rare Light Luminizer

Anthelion

Rituel de Fille: Rare Light Luminizer

Phosphene

Rituel de Fille: Rare Light Luminizer

Ghost Light

Rituel de Fille: Rare Light Luminizer

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