smokingboot: (Default)
A chum and I did something just a bit wonderful last night. We bimbled down to Lincoln's Inn Fields around 4.30, waiting for this:

http://www.soane.org/your_visit

A gentleman in a fine old hat warned us that though the Soanes Museum closes at 5 to reopen at 6, this candlelit viewing of John Soanes' house is always very popular, and if we didn't queue early, we would be waiting for hours. We didn't pay that much heed. Lincoln's Inn Fields is so very pretty as dusk falls into dark, and the windows light up across the centuries. There are snowdrops under the trees, first I've seen this year. We wandered through arches, and found slabs under which lost laywers lie. Then we returned to Soanes house at about 4.45, to find over 40 people waiting.

God, god, how cold did it get as we waited! The man in the hat did not exaggerate...the queue went beyond our sight and round the corner. One might wonder if it was worth all the while in the freezing dark. I couldn't feel my feet. Then they let us in, small groups at a time, and I didn't wonder any more.

I suppose there is an argument against seeing a museum by candlelight. After all, you will obviously miss certain details. But the atmosphere is so evocative, and the Soanes Museum is unlike others; it's basically a townhouse, whose owner had the kind of wealth that enabled him to knock out walls and ceilings in order to position awkward antiquities just so. At points it becomes a strange temple to many gods. Then it seems that the whole thing folds in on itself along tiny corridors, surrounded by courtyards and demi-rooms all lit by magic. In one, a nymph stared out for all the world as though she had just seen us. Through another we could just make out a memorial engraved with the words 'Alas Poor Fanny'*. Apollo Belvedere strutted his stuff, proving that even sun gods can benefit from shadows playing on their abs, Diana of the Ephesians smiled above her necklace of testicles/breasts, bronze Chinese lions danced in the flicker, gargoyles played on the walls and King Seti's sarcophagus lay there glowing.

We left the candlelit museum happy and ready for something to warm us; a glass of ginger wine in the nearby Ship Tavern proved just the ticket. This is Imbolc time, called Candlemass by many. It was a beautiful way to celebrate.

*Fanny, it transpires, was the family doggie.
smokingboot: (porcupine)
I need a fox mask; the one I have is hopeless (if you know anyone who could make a wearable bearable fox mask, do let me know) so I was searching the web when I came across the site below. It is dedicated to the Yup'iq culture of Alaska, and explains the masks, stories and shamanic beliefs of the people. There were several things that impressed me about it; the first was that all the animal masks have people's faces on them somewhere, as part of the belief that every animal has 'personhood' within them, and should be respected.

The second is the way each page is set up. First there is the mask, followed by the story, then as the page goes down, basic biological information about the animal and then, underneath, one or two thoughtful questions: On the fox page it asks

Are there any similarities between a fox's community and your community? If so, what?

On the wolf page it asks:

What in your community would be improved if you or other members of your community could call on the power of the wolf?

On the bear page, after talking about the respect that must be paid to bears it asks:

What person or animal in your community do your elders tell you to treat with respect and never criticize? Why?

Good questions. There's something about this approach I really like. Here's the link:
http://www.si.umich.edu/CHICO/yupik_backup/lessons/ecology/foxes.html

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