Top 7 Paintings of Hell Raiding Crones

Sometimes you just need to see something, and see it good. Lately I had a real hunger to see some old women raiding hell, some real crone energy being raised. The works that made my list had to have the mysterious weight of history twinned in their wild grey hair. 

Albrect Durer, Witch Riding Backwards on a Goat, 1500

1. Durer’s goat rider is perhaps my favourite wild elder of all time. This liminal image is going forwards and backwards at the same time.

Agustino Venziano The Witches Rout, 1520

2. Venziano’s  Witches Rout, 1520. What is even happening, and does it matter? You either climb on board or get out of the way.

Dulle Griet, Bruegel the Elder, 1536

3. Bruegel’s hell raider is the painting that started it all. I have written extensively about this painting as well as the Durer piece on my Patreon. Here Bruegel is heavily influenced by Bosch, representing a figure from Flemmish folklore called Dulle Griet. She raided hell, stealing treasure from demons. She was a satire of a loud, unpleasant woman but time has been kind to her. Now, we can look at these paintings as unabashed visions of female power.

David Teniers, 1630s

4. David Teniers’  Hexenspuk which translates to “spooky witch.”  I found this title on the internets and doubt its veracity.  What fascinates me most is what this woman is leaving behind.  As she enters hell, she looks over her shoulder. The demons seem to cower at her brandished sword, and she leaves behind a wild conflagration in the world of men. It’s not hard to imagine war, or the war of the sexes that were also known as the burning times. 

Dulle Griet by David Ryckaert III. 1651-1659

5 David Ryckaert III was a contemporary of Teniers, Nothing prepared me for the weirdness of Ryckaert, from his “toothpuller” and “The fable of the satyr and the peasant family” to an old woman feeding a cat swaddled as if it were a baby in “Peasant Woman with Cat.” He is my new fascination. 

Antwerp School, 1700s

 

6 Antwerp School, 17th century. I found this on the website of a German auction house.

Another paiting from an auction website, attributed to the Antwerp School, 1700s.

7 Another from the Antwerp School of the 17th Century. Here the Flemish saying “she would even tie the Devil to her pillow” meaning one who has an obstinate fearlessness, is given literal form.

The old woman fearlessly raiding hell is visited again and again as a subject, like a scene from the Bible or Greek mythology, yet it was folkloric and peasant-based. Perhaps this reveals the last vestiges of resistance to a new way of being brought on by the shift from feudal use of land to early capitalism. These changes brought with them the final stamping out of “pagan” ways of being. Older women were most likely the last to resist these changes to common ways of life. The earlier works in this list have a nightmarish urgency, while the later are clearly tamed by repetition and reference. The rebellious women, the Dulle Griets, were merely characters in a story told at midwinter by the fire.  Do you have a favourite crone-power painting? Would you add any to this list? 

Batcave Lockdown on World Goth Day

Twenty years ago, I was standing on the Sunset Strip with my friend Joey. We’d just been to see the Legendary Pink Dots and someone leaned out of a convertible SUV, screaming, “GOTH HIPPIES DIE.” We laughed and laughed like crones around a cauldron.

This sums up my life as a goth, which began when I was a teen putting ads in the back of Flipside magazine for mix tapes, zine trades and pen pal correspondence. I didn’t know what a goth was exactly, but I was playing Bauhaus, The Birthday Party, Siouxsie and the Banshees and the Damned on vinyl I kept in a milk crate. I wore 1950s black cardigans and skirts, vintage slips and fishnets with old rosaries. I guess not much has changed, deep down.

I met most of my forever friends through the clove smoke of a crowded dance floor in some goth club, back in the day

All this influences my jewellery designs, and I find my original style inspirations like Texacala Jones, Exene Cervenka and Helena Bonham Carter still comfort and inspire me.

And everything has changed. I’ve constantly departed from High Goth costume, finding it farther and farther from my roots. I still revel in the literature, music and aesthetic of gothness. I have my bragging rights, though— one of the first gigs I ever went to was The Damned in 1986. I’ve danced in a My Dying Bride, and I met most of my forever friends through the clove smoke of a crowded dance floor in some goth club, back in the day. You are and will forever be my people.

I miss it—I mean, before this lockdown even happened, I missed it. I made this playlist for you, for us. Let’s dance slow and weird, like the poet-souls we are.

A Feral Folk Chat with Dud Muurmand

For this first instalment of the #feralfolk feature on my blog, I had the pleasure of chatting with dancer, instructor and costumer, Dud Muurmand. I first met Dud at Gothla UK in her burlesque fusion workshop, and have been a student of hers ever since. Her Weimar-Berlin cabaret style as well as her skirt fusion and traditional belly dance styles, all with a darker edge is unique in the belly dance world. I’m excited to have talked to her via email. 

Ally: Can you tell us a bit about your current projects? 

Dud: My biggest projects currently is my Patreon forum and my Ravenwing Design. My Patreon forum is reaching its 2 year anniversary this month. This subscription-based forum where people can study and train dance with me is a very large part of my creative work time nowadays.

They are more like “vignettes” or “moving sculptures” inspired by old tales, mythology and history.

I am very happy to see how the forum keeps growing and the support I get back from my patrons. It is a very fulfilling project for myself also. The technical work behind all my video releases and live stream classes have also given back a lot of experience and inspirations into other artistic ideas in my head of story-telling/dramatic dance videos – but quite unlike the regular choreography-caught on video. They are more like “vignettes” or “moving sculptures” inspired by old tales, mythology and history. The first of this idea came out last year in my little video project “Mørkealf”

My Ravenwing Design (slow fashion and upcycled designs aimed at dancers and other free spirits)  is another big project of mine currently – still in its inception, but nevertheless a creative project that has been on it’s way for about … well, ahem 20 years! 

I have always been very creative and productive with my hands: sewing, knitting, crocheting, making costumes, making stuff – and very inspired by my own mother who was also a very creative and productive person. For many years she was also encouraging me to expand this side of my creativity and jump into “business” but for some strange reason of insecurity I was stalling. Unfortunately, I lost my mum 5 years ago so I did not have her to push me anymore, but luckily my husband “took over” the pushing part and I started “Ravenwing Design” last January 2019. 

Like I said, it is still in its very beginning, I am such a terrible “business person” I completely lack the sense for figures and numbers –  but I will try to focus on what I can put into my designs – love for beauty.

INSTAGRAM: @ravenwingdesign

FACEBOOK: Ravenwing Design

Ally: Do you have a favourite adornment? Does it have a story?

Dud: Okay, this question was like opening Pandoras box – because I went straight into my treasure boxes of ….many many …. jewelry and adornment pieces that I have collected over the years – and what to choose?

Some are of course family heirlooms that contains their own history, other pieces are marking different phases of my life, others are special pieces that called out to me at a shop, a flea market, an artisan market. I am a hoarder on that matter, period. As a dancer and physical mover,  I am also not really able to wear so much jewelry on daily basis, but when I dress up I fancy putting on more stuff and I am not afraid to mix old and new. But instead of wearing my pieces I like to hang up especially necklaces as adornment in my home studio.

OKAY, I have to choose:

 first is the necklace my husband bought for me as the very first present in our relationship – it was the year 1998 and he gave it to me on the premier night of my dance play “Orientalia 2000”

– Second is a small wooden brooch that my mother actually made herself when she was a young girl. I don’t wear it very often, afraid to loose it – but I love holding it in my hand

Ebony brooch made by Dud’s mother

– Third: a little variety of earrings – earrings is what I wear the most. Some years ago I found this guy in the Berlin Mauerpark fleamarket. He has a little stall with earrings and jewelry made out of scraps – especially electronic scraps. I have several of his earrings – but one pair is a favourite made out of tiny light bulbs from car lights.

And then I want to point to my newly possessed Nidavellir earrings  from Feral Strumpet, they are really growing on me, I just love the form, the beauty and the vintage feel.

Ally: Is there another artist, writer, dancer or maker that you think we should be paying attention to now?

Dud: Again – where to start? I have chosen 3 musicians, that are in my personal perimeter at the moment:

I loooooove music and it is often from music I get inspiration for my dance artistry. These 2 guys you will recognise from a lot of my online training videos because they both make “royalty free music”, which is a treasure in itself, but that is actually not why I keep using their music. They are very different in styles, one is very dark and the other is doing a lot of electronic cross-over and experiments (and also game music, which is where he started I think – but digging into his archive there is sooo much more).

– MYUU www.thedarkpiano.com / YOUTUBE

– TEKNOAXE www.teknoaxe.com /YOUTUBE

The 3rd musician is Danish  DANHEIM, www.danheimmusic.com – pure love for “viking style” music, the depth, the stories, the imagery – and he is becoming very popular which is well deserved.

Ally: Dud, thank you so much for talking to me. I especially liked hearing about your mother’s brooch and her influence on Ravenswing. Also thanks for turning me on to Danheim, a new favourite. 

You can find Dud Muurmand online in these places

Dancer Dud Muurmand in a dark wood

“The Cairn” in Rituals and Declarations

My piece “The Cairn” about the Maggie Wall “Witches'” Monument, appears alongside work by Grey Malkin on the Burryman of Queensferry, among other works of folk horror and psychogeography in issue 2 of Rituals and Declarations. You can order your copy from https://ritualsdeclarations.bigcartel.com/product/rituals-declarations-issue-2-of-4-spring-2020

A Feral Future

Right now it seems everything is up in the air and situations change every day.  My online shop is open, and I wanted to let you know about some adjustments I’ll put in place in the coming weeks. My independent online shop, feralstrumpet.co.uk will remain open and orders will go out once a week.

Many of you know about the recent changes at Etsy, the latest of a series that have put pressure on small makers selling on the site.  These have come as the share holders of Etsy stock have demanded deeper profits for themselves. The increase in fees are about to be implemented when all small businesses are struggling to survive.

Etsy’s latest change involves mandatory ad payments “for the lifetime of my shop.” The cost will be steep, and combined with all the other fees and the Value Added Tax charged on these fees, it will amount to at least 25% of each sale that comes through an ad. This will be on top of the free shipping to the USA that Etsy has demanded sellers worldwide must provide if we are to appear in the highly competitive search algorithm on Etsy.

I work with many other small makers and suppliers, trying to keep my sourcing accountable. They are hurting too, and some may go out of business altogether. Right now I’m trying to figure out how best to weather these challenges.

As a customer, I know none of this is your problem. I want to make and source beautiful things that tell a story, and this should be a joy for you to shop on my site. I want people to feel a connection with me as the maker and know that they are supporting a micro business. 

Good old days– this was my first Etsy banner, from almost ten years ago. Maybe some of you remember it!

We will weather this, I promise.

Etsy was once a genuine community of makers. In its rush to please share holders, Etsy management has forgotten who built the site and gave the brand its integrity. Etsy wasn’t always like this; it was not always a public company. I have been selling on the site for nine years, but have been a customer since its inception. I was dreaming about what I would do for my ten year Etsy shop anniversary next March, something I fear will not happen. This is not because of the chaos of COVID-19 but Etsy’s corporate greed, which makes it more heartbreaking. For almost a decade I have been connected with customers and other makers and many have become dear friends. In many ways I and sellers like me have been instrumental in building the trust in the Etsy brand, and now we are treated as expendable. There has been so much outcry about this and always Etsy’s answer is the same dismissive, cut and paste response. When Etsy sent out a bulletin saying how they were supporting makers during these challenging times, its number one offer was the “promise to roll out offsite ads”— something many sellers, perhaps the majority, do not want.

I plan to put my Etsy shop in “holiday (vacation) mode” for the foreseeable future.  I hold out hope that maybe things will change again at Etsy, making it a good place for small makers like myself.  In the meantime, please stick with me through these changes by continuing to come to feralstrumpet.co.uk, my independent shop, even if it is just to browse and look at pretty things. Beauty is useful. As I am always working to make this site the best it can be, I will be unveiling a new and improved shopping experience there very soon! I would love to know the kind of work you like to seeing from me. Let’s go into this new future together.

To All My Friends and Shop Supporters

These are uncertain times. I hope all my friends, shop supporters and customers are well and safe. I would like to say it’s business as usual at Feral HQ, but of course it isn’t. As we work from home and live in a somewhat remote, rural area, self-isolation is a norm. We have the luxury here to do this without much change, but some of my suppliers have been affected by the Shelter in Place Order in California. I collaborate with many other small makers and businesses and they are all affected. We are in this together. 

Like many of you, I am one of the vulnerable with multiple pre-existing, chronic conditions one of which is life-threatening asthma that is triggered by respiratory infections. I’m grateful to everyone who is self-isolating too. I know not everyone can. I think the terms “social distancing” and “self-isolating” might describe the physical reality of these actions but really they are deeply communal behaviours, protecting the weakest and most vulnerable. In the words of one of the many memes on the subject, “The one that stayed away saved the rest.” One of my friends said that it feels like the quietest general strike.

I love that. We are quietly striking for each other, for life. Things are coming up in the quiet, too: kindness and birdsong, the steely warmth of hope, the sun on the daffodils, new nettle shoots. Spring is here.

There are some big changes happening on Etsy where sadly corporate greed has finally taken over completely. Until I know how their new changes will affect sellers, I must put my Etsy shop on indefinite holiday mode, but everything will continue on feralstrumpet.co.uk. If you need a pleasant distraction of pretty things to look at, come on by. I’m making orders and photographing a lot of vintage I’ve recently sourced. I plan for regular shop updates to go out also because beauty is useful, always. What would you like to see from me?  What can I do to lighten these times a bit for you?

Please keep in touch– my customers and my shop supporters are my community!