The Tribal Gathering

Performing with Tanzhexen at Jewel of Yorkshire. Photo by Violet Ann.
Performing with Tanzhexen at Jewel of Yorkshire. Photo by Violet Ann.

In my other life, I am a tribal belly dancer.  Originally it was something I did as a dare to myself and then it was something I did so I could socialise in a new place where I knew few people and now it has taken over most aspects of my life that are not already occupied by making pretty things.

There’s a wonderful tribal belly dance festival in York this weekend called the Tribal Gathering. I’ll be selling my wares in the souk.

I make most of my costuming.  Though my designs I sell are not necessarily performance ware– they are intended everyday or special occasion pieces, but the designs are all influenced by dance, and tribal belly dance in particular.

Currently the tumble polisher is tumbling, I’ve been hammering away and working away with the callouses and cuts to show for it! I reek of sulphur. Making pretty things is not unlike dance.  I think of all the sweat and tears to bring something beautiful out of nothing– it is the same struggle, and a joyful one. I hope to see some of you at the tribal gathering.

If you’re not sure what tribal belly dance is, this short documentary is a nice introduction:

Tribal Hoops available in My Etsy shop.
Tribal Hoops available in My Etsy shop.

Ode to Poe, The Third and Final Post.

Nevermore illustration from AntiqueGraphique on Etsy

Happy Birthday, Edgar Allen Poe.

Thank you to everyone who has stopped by the blog and has helped promote my shop over the last few days of this Poe-party.  The winner of the Poe Grimoire bookmark has been chosen by the whims of fate (out of a hat), and she is the inimitable Jo Taylor– fantastic dancer and member of the wonderful 400 Roses Morris side.

Beautiful Jo is in the back row, far left!

Another manifestation of the Nevermoore bookmark is, of course, still available in my Etsy shop!

Poe Nevermore Grimoire Bookmark by Feral Strumpet on Etsy

Courting Ghosts

A stand-in for the face of Mary Smith, hanged for witchcraft in 1616.

396 years ago today a woman named Mary Smith was hanged for witchcraft in Norfolk, allegedly after a falling out with other villagers over the price of cheese.  Just one of the thousands of women to die in such a way at this time, the details of her life are completely lost to us.  Margaret Murray’s “The Witch Cult in Western Europe” contains a long Appendix of just such a list of witches in England and Scotland.  Mary Smith, with her common, every-woman name, is not among them.

Some claim the epidemic of witch burning during the 17th century was a systemic extermination of a certain kind of woman, or it was a mass hysteria. It certainly was singular consolidation of power– of supposed medical science over herb lore, of Christian customs over ancient, inherited Pagan ritual and the written word over oral history.  And the losers in it all were women folk.

Now, it’s big in the tourist trade, this particular bit of history.  In York, ghost tours make their rounds every night, the guides competing fervently for the tourist dollars. They might visit Tyburn on the Knavesmire near the race track, where executions once took place.  Many women who died there were accused of killing their husbands– considered high treason at the time.  The “Terrible Tales” bus makes its rounds, its sides painted with garish atrocities, and there’s the York Dungeon’s new attraction– “See Witches Burned Alive.” The ads promise “the witch hunt is on! Hear the screams and feel the heat as the accused are burnt alive before your eyes.” I can’t say how much I hate this aspect of the tourist trade, this sentimentality in reverse– the indulging in the sufferings of others.

Looking back at history will always be like looking into a shattered mirror.  How much more if one is a woman, picking up the shards and finding so many missing, deliberately destroyed.  And yet the impulse to wholeness is human, and we persist. As mothers of invention, we fill in the blanks, courting ghosts and making do– mending, as we have always done.