Wednesday, 31 October 2012

My First Halloween

I remember so well the first time I ever went trick-or-treating. It was 1962 and I was five years old. My parents made my older brother schlep me around with him and his friends. (Boy, I bet he was thrilled, LOL!)

My costume consisted of a small plastic pointy clown hat secured under my chin with an elastic band and two large red dots of lipstick on my cheeks for clown makeup. Oh, and my winter parka and boots, of course. It's cold in Manitoba on October 31st.

My brother taught me how to go up to each door, hold out my bag and say "trick or treat!" I couldn't believe that people would just give us candy -- how great was that! In those days, most people handed out suckers, apples, peanuts in the shell or those godawful molasses Halloween Kisses in the orange and black wrappers. But if you scored big, you might get a homemade caramel popcorn ball!

It was soooo scary to be outside after dark! Dry leaves were blowing around in circles on the sidewalks, making an eerie rustling noise. Small groups of masked children ran from house to house, sometimes in pools of light, sometimes in darkness. Disembodied voices and giggles were heard on the wind. The occasional jack-o-lantern flickered and glowed in the night. What a thrilling experience it was!

The scariest thing for me now is realizing that those memories date from 50 years ago. Where oh where have all those years gone?

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Lahaina Keiki Halloween Parade

Last year on Halloween, My Rare One and I were in the town of Lahaina on the west coast of Maui. Every October 31st, Lahaina throws a huge Halloween party. The town's main drag, Front Street, is closed to traffic and opened to costumed revellers. Once school is out at 4:00 p.m., the Keiki (Kids) Halloween Parade begins. Here are some of my photos -- I hope you enjoy them!

What's a parade without a marching band? Nice banana, dude, but those drummers are a real Scream!

Here's the whole M & M family -- yum!

What a cute little blue fairy! But what the hell is her Mom wearing on her feet?

Who you gonna call? Jeez, the entire cast of Ghostbusters showed up.

Remember these two crazy aliens from Sesame Street? A ringing telephone would terrify them, if I recall correctly.

Some local witches and a small Count Dracula . . .

. . . and several bees with their beekeepers following close behind.

At night, Front Street turns into one huge adult street party. Lahaina swells to about 20-30,000 people for that big costume bash. But the Keiki Parade wore us out so we didn't stay longer, but drove back to our condo in Kihei instead. Gettin' old, eh?

[All photos by Debra She Who Seeks]

Monday, 29 October 2012

Witchy Brooms

I have a real thing for witchy brooms and I'm always on the lookout for them when traveling. I saw these lovely brooms a few years ago when we were in Italy. They were lying about in Monterosso, one of the picturesque Cinque Terre villages on the Italian Riviera.

I'm convinced these brooms belonged to a local strega (witch) who was stockpiling them for a midnight ride with her sisters.

I saw some great witchy brooms this spring in Japan too. These beauties were spotted at the Asakusa Sensoji Temple in Tokyo. Perhaps a local witch was moonlighting as a groundskeeper?

And I found these in mountainous Takayama, tucked away behind historic government buildings dating from the Tokugawa Shogunate (Edo era). As you can see from the snow in this photo, local witches really needed those plastic snow shovels too!

[All photos by Debra She Who Seeks]

Friday, 26 October 2012

Celebrating Hekate

Ancient crone of wisdom,
Hekate! Hekate!
Old One, come to us!

Since Samhain is in October, what better time is there to celebrate Hekate, the Queen of the Witches? The Greek goddess Hekate is so ancient that She existed long before the Olympian deities. Crone goddess of the crossroads, Hekate led the abducted maiden goddess Persephone back from the Underworld by torchlight to the waiting arms of the mother goddess Demeter. In the subsequent Christian era, Hekate's name was linked with magic and the occult. She then became characterized as the Queen of the Witches.

To honour Hekate at our October Drumming Circle, we wore our finest witches hats while drumming and singing. Here's some of the women showing off their various styles of pointy chapeaux! And see the little statue of Hekate sitting on a small djembe drum, peeking out of the middle of the Circle?

Many of the participants at that evening's Circle consented to pose for a photo especially for my blog. Thanks, all you wild and wonderful women! It was a fun gathering!

[The photo of Hekate comes from Sacred Source website, where I purchased my statue several years ago.]

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Dead and Moaning in Las Vegas

What would Halloween be without zombies? NUTTIN, that's what. So how can you up your zombie quotient at this all-important time of year? SIMPLE! Read this fabulous new e-book written by Brandon Meyers and Bryan Pedas, those two crazy bastards behind the blog A Beer for the Shower.

Take one zombie army, throw in Las Vegas, gambling, an Elvis impersonator, a drunk janitor, Walmart, non-stop action with MAJOR laughs and you've got Dead and Moaning in Las Vegas. And best of all? This Kindle e-book is a mere $2.99 at -- click here to go right to the page.

And as Brandon and Bryan always say: "Cheers and stay classy, friends."

Monday, 22 October 2012

Halloween Goes to the Dogs

My cat doesn't usually let me post things about dogs. Her Royal Highness is kinda jealous and controlling that way. So I'd better take advantage of HRH's continued temporary absence from Canada to post some adorable doggy Halloween costumes while I still can . . . .

Isn't this one of the BEST costumes EVER? (And may I just add, Arrr!)

Look at this adorable MUTT-tini! Must be James Bond's dog. Shaken but not stirred.

And how about this scary ghost, LOL!

Hey, how did this photo get in here?

Friday, 19 October 2012

HRH Has Been Sprung!

This morning I received wonderful news from my cat, Her Royal Highness. HRH's days in a Russian jail cell are finally over! But here, I'll let you read the email for yourself --

Hello human! Pussy Riot's appeal was heard a couple of weeks ago and guess what? The court released one Pussy Riot girl AND ME!!! However, the other two Pussy Riot girls must continue to serve their full two-year jail sentences. I feel bad for them, but woo hoo! I'm outta here! I have to work off a bit of parole time but that shouldn't take too long, hopefully.

Remember my old pal, Mr. Whiskervitch?

He's been SO helpful. I need a job while I'm on parole so he pulled a few strings and got one for me, the sweetie. The only downside is that the job is in Saint Petersburg rather than here in Moscow. Mr Whiskervitch arranged for his boss to take me along on one of his trips to Saint P so now I am here in that city. For obvious reasons, we had to travel incognito because his boss can't afford to be seen with a Pussy Riot compatriot. That's why I'm wearing a disguise in this photo. 

And yes, Putin travels EVERYWHERE without his shirt on to prove how macho he is. MEN!

I'll write again once I've started my new job. Until then -- love, hugz and purrz from your LIBERATED kitty!

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Oh Godzilla, You So Silly!

Don't you just love Godzilla (or Gojira as he's called in Japan)? Sure, Godzilla is radioactive and has atomic laser breath, but isn't that true of everyone once in a while? And who hasn't occasionally stomped on a few cities while in a bad mood? Jeez, cut a poor monster some slack, willya?

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Queenston Heights' Second Memorial

In distinct and pointed contrast to the Imperial British grandiosity of Brock's Monument, First Nations people have erected their own Memorial right at its base to honour their warriors of the Battle of Queenston Heights. After all, Brock died early on in the battle but they were there right to the bitter end, equally helping to save Upper Canada from American takeover.

The First Nations Memorial is made of wooden branches bound together with strips of red cloth to form a kind of tripod. A willow wreath rests at its centre in a manner reminiscent of Remembrance Day memorials. Laminated pictures of native leaders from the War of 1812 are displayed along with statements explaining the Memorial's significance.

I felt more moved by the First Nations Memorial than by Brock's Monument, actually, because "fair is fair," eh? Everyone's contribution to the history of Canada needs to be acknowledged, honoured and respected.

So, patient blog readers, this concludes my very long series of posts about the Battle of Queenston Heights. My War of 1812 series will resume in about six months time.

[All photos from the internet]

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Memorializing Brock, Part 2

Later in the mid-1800s, the battlefield of Queenston Heights was transformed into a beautiful park and a huge stone monument was erected to honour Major-General Sir Isaac Brock. In fact, he is actually buried beneath it. A few years ago when My Rare One and I were in Ontario to visit Niagara Falls, we took a little detour and went to Queenston Heights to see Brock's Monument as well.

In typical 19th century style, Brock's Monument is intimidating in size, phallic in nature, rather grandiose and oh so very British. It reminded me a lot of Nelson's Column in London's Trafalgar Square. It is definitely worth seeing. I think every Canadian should visit Queenston Heights and Brock's Monument at least once, if possible. It is such an important site in Canadian history.

But we discovered that there is also another important Memorial on Queenston Heights!

Tomorrow: Queenston Heights' Second Memorial

[All photos from the internet]

Monday, 15 October 2012

Memorializing Brock, Part 1

Sir Isaac Brock's death while defending Upper Canada from invasion guaranteed him major hero status in Canadian history. Brock's military tunic and other artifacts from the Battle of Queenston Heights are on permanent display at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa. See the bullet hole right underneath the black lapel? That's where the fatal musket ball got him.

The city of Brockville in Eastern Ontario is named for him, as is Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario, the largest city on the Niagara peninsula. There's a township in Ontario and a village in Saskatchewan which also bear his name, as do numerous schools across Canada.

When I was a kid, I learned to sing a Canadian folk song celebrating the Battle of Queenston Heights. Its romanticized lyrics were written in the 1800s but the melody was composed in the 1960s by Canadian folklorist Alan Mills. Here's the first verse:

Upon the heights of Queenston one dark October day,
Invading foes were marshalled in battle's dread array.
Brave Brock looked up the rugged steep and planned a bold attack;
"No foreign flag shall fly," said he, "above the Union Jack."

You can hear the melody in an excerpt of Alan Mills singing the second verse by going here, scrolling down to #19 and clicking on the little play button.

Tomorrow: Memorializing Brock, Part 2

Saturday, 13 October 2012

The Battle of Queenston Heights

Two hundred years ago today on October 13, 1812, American forces invaded Canada at the tiny village of Queenston in Upper Canada. The village consisted of 20 houses, surrounding farms and a military barracks.

Under cover of darkness at 4:00 a.m., some of the many American troops led by Major-General Stephen Van Rensselaer were ferried in boats across the Niagara River to the Canadian side. Navigating through direct cannon fire from the British soldiers stationed at the barracks, the Americans landed and started to scale the Niagara escarpment in order to take the high ground of Queenston Heights.

But Van Rensselaer was unable to get the bulk of his invasion force across the river. Partly it was because of the heavy artillery fire. But mostly it was because his troops were undertrained and inexperienced militia who were reluctant to go into battle.

Major-General Sir Isaac Brock arrived at dawn with more British troops and the York Volunteers militia units. They proceeded to charge up the steep escarpment under American fire. On the way up, Brock was shot first in the wrist and then in the chest. He died almost instantly.

The battle nevertheless went on, of course. More British reinforcements arrived by noon, as did 300 Mohawk warriors, and they all fought their way up the escarpment. The fierce Indian war cries were yet another reason why the rest of the militiamen on the U.S. side of the river continued their refusal to cross.

Even so, the battle was actually going quite well for the Americans until about 4:00 p.m. That's when Brock's second-in-command, Major-General Roger Hale Sheaffe, arrived on Queenston Heights by a circuitous overland route, having detoured fresh British troops and more Mohawk warriors so as to arrive behind the American line.

And that made it pretty much game over. The American troops scattered but, with nowhere to go, had to surrender at the very edge of the precipice.

Upper Canada was saved, huzzah!

Monday: Memorializing Brock, Part 1

--First painting by James B. Dennis, 1866
--Second painting by John David Kelly, 1896

Friday, 12 October 2012

What Was the Upper Canada Militia?

Apart from Brock's trained British soldiers and Tecumseh's native warriors, Upper Canada was also defended by local militia units. These volunteer units were composed of men from 16 to 60 who were local farmers, tradespeople and merchants.

. . . [T]hese citizen soldiers were drilled about three days in a month. They were called up when needed, placed away from the centre of the line, on the flanks (when the line existed at all), and, after an engagement, sent back to their homes and farms until needed once more. *

Although the militia was certainly not intended to be, nor was used as, the first line of defence, a kind of "militia myth" soon developed that the militia was the real saviour of Upper Canada. The British actively encouraged this myth because it was good propaganda, promoted British values over American ones and fostered enthusiasm and loyalty among the citizenry of Upper Canada. After all, the vast majority of the populace were United Empire Loyalists born south of the border, now being expected to fight against former American countrymen. **

The most famous militia units were the York Volunteers who fought with Brock and Tecumseh at the Siege of Detroit and at the Battle of Queenston Heights. York (now Toronto) was the capital of Upper Canada.

Tomorrow: The Battle of Queenston Heights

* Pierre Berton, The Invasion of Canada 1812-1813, p. 22.
** Steven D. Bennett, "The Militia Myth in the War of 1812" found here.
--the photo of contemporary Upper Canada Militia re-enactors comes from the internet.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Who Was Tecumseh?

Tecumseh was a brilliant Shawnee chief, politician and warrior. The Shawnee, like other tribes, were driven off their traditional territory in what is now Ohio by the American military who brutally cleared the way for advancing American settlement. From childhood onwards, Tecumseh steadily engaged in warfare, violence and conflict with the United States.

Tecumseh spent his life trying to forge an Indian Confederacy strong enough to withstand white takeover of continental America. But the tribes were in crisis and in flux, traumatized and divided, inclined to fight among themselves rather than to unite against the larger enemy. Tecumseh did not succeed in creating a unified Confederacy. But he did lead a significant alliance of warriors drawn from various tribes. In the War of 1812, Tecumseh led his warriors north of the Great Lakes and teamed up with the British, who made big (but ultimately empty) promises of granting territory for an independent aboriginal nation.

Tomorrow: What Was the Upper Canada Militia?

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Who Was Sir Isaac Brock?

Major-General Sir Isaac Brock commanded all the British troops in Upper Canada (now Ontario) and was Lieutenant-Governor of the province as well. A well-educated and cultivated 42-year-old Englishman, he chafed at his assignment to such a colonial backwater. But he was trained to put Duty above all else and so he did his job well in Canada. He had no use for American democracy and republicanism -- those concepts were "as treasonous in his lexicon as communism will be to a later generation of military authoritarians." *

Brock diligently and meticulously prepared for war and the expected invasion by American troops. He had the great foresight to align his forces with the aboriginal warriors of Tecumseh the Shawnee chief. That turned out to be the smartest and most crucial defensive manoeuvre of the entire war.

By July of 1812, the Americans had already tried to invade Canada at the town of Sandwich (now Windsor) but were successfully repelled. In August, Brock and Tecumseh joined forces and captured Detroit from the Americans. Actually, it was an easy victory because U.S. General William Hull was so terrified of Indians that he went completely to pieces and surrendered Detroit without a fight. Hull was later court-martialed for cowardice but was spared the death penalty because of his previous exemplary service in the Revolutionary War.

Tomorrow: Who Was Tecumseh?

* Pierre Berton, The Invasion of Canada 1812-1813, p. 83.
--Posthumous portrait of Brock by George T. Berthon, c. 1883.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

War of 1812: The Invasion of Canada

When President James Madison and Congress declared war on Great Britain in June of 1812, the Americans quite confidently assumed that it would be a very easy matter indeed to invade and conquer the British colony of Canada. As former President Thomas Jefferson wrote that summer:

The acquisition of Canada this year, as far as the neighborhood of Quebec, will be a mere matter of marching, and will give us experience for the attack of Halifax the next, and the final expulsion of England from the American continent.

The American government not only thought that the Canadian colony would be poorly defended by the British, but it also made the mistake of thinking that the people of Upper and Lower Canada would welcome the Americans as liberators and so would not put up much resistance.

Wrong on both counts, as it turned out.

Tomorrow: Who Was Sir Isaac Brock?

Monday, 8 October 2012

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving!

May the blessings and abundance of this season be available to all! Enjoy your turkey, tofurkey or whatever you're having for a Thanksgiving meal. And on this day above all others, remember -- "gratitude is the attitude!"

Friday, 5 October 2012

EPLC Fellowship Labyrinth

Last month I attended Edmonton's Pagan Pride Day which was held this year in Gazebo Park in Old Strathcona (for those of you who know the city). Whenever there's an outdoor pagan get-together, the Edmonton Pagan Learning Circle Fellowship hosts a temporary labyrinth for people to walk. The labyrinths are created by EPLC Fellowship leader, Kaldra.

If the venue is paved, Kaldra will draw the labyrinth using chalk. If the venue is grass, she uses spikes and brightly coloured nylon rope to form the labyrinth walls. Sometimes her labyrinths are round, sometimes square, depending on the type of space available. This year's labyrinth was a crazy quilt / spiders web kind of a path. I absolutely loved it and thought it was Kaldra's best creation yet!

An existing stone pillar on the lawn formed the labyrinth's centre. That's a smudge bowl with a basket of incense and other smudging material at the base of it.

The labyrinth was well used during the festivities -- you can see how the park's grass has been trampled down on the unicursal path!

Like the sacred life journey it represents, an EPLC Fellowship labyrinth exists only for a short while and then is gone again, reappearing when needed in a new form.

Blessed be, everyone!

[All photos by Debra She Who Seeks]