Día de los Muertos is a holiday rooted in the ancient past of Mesoamerica. My ancestors were in awe of the eternal cycle of life and death and believed in the need for sacrifice to assure the continuation of life. The Aztecs of past honored those who have passed on with great feasts, sacrifice, ritual, dance, and sacred art that depicted their beliefs and customs. After the trauma of the Spanish conquest, their beliefs persisted by adapting them to the holidays of the Christian calendar. Although much of the ancient indigenous religions were lost, the core aspect of the days of the dead was kept. This core consists of the altar with offerings to the dead.
Many of the symbols found on the altars of today are the result of the melding of Spanish and indigenous art and religion. The indigenous cross of the four cardinal points became the Christian cross, and the Tree of Life became the Garden of Eden. The Spanish brought elements of the Feast of Fools associated with carnival (farewell to flesh) where everything is open to ridicule, mockery, and lightheartedness. Everything is equal in death; no one escapes its inevitability. This is where the humor and whimsy associated with today’s los Días de los Muertos in all likelihood stems from.
During the latter part of the colonial period, the people began making brightly colored sugar –candy skulls and exchanging them between family and friends as tokens of affection. These became common items alongside the image of Guadalupe, flowers, water, bread, and copal. Skeleton dolls made of clay and paper maché were made depicting people in everyday activities. These dolls soon became a part of tradition. I come by this tradition honestly through the lineage of my father, King Xicotencotl of Tlaxcala and Pedro de Alvarado, the Spanish conquistador.
Pictured are some painted skulls from which I will soon be making calaveras. This is a time consuming and tedious process, so I try to make a few skulls first and then put them together in doll form. My style of making Day of the Dead dolls is unique because I combine the traditional New Orleans Voodoo art style of a base of sticks and Spanish moss for the body. I then dress them in fancy colors and I typically create skull heads with brightly colored designs.
Visit Day of the Dead Altar Art for more pictures of my Day of the Dead art.
Sunday, September 30, 2007
Friday, September 21, 2007
Fairy Ju Jus are butterfly fairies with the ability to fly, cast spells and to influence or foresee the future. This guy has his bottle of fairy dust ready to do his magic at a moment's notice.I made the Great Pumpkin Voodoo doll to celebrate the up and coming Halloween holiday...my favorite holiday of the year.
Here is a close up of Ma'man Brigit's face. I am very pleased with how she came out. I think she is one of my most beautiful creations. How would you like to meet those luscious lips when you cross over to the other side! Ma'man Brigit is the exotic dancer of the Voodoo, easily seducing anyone in her presence through her sexual dancing.
Fairy Ju Ju guy is really a butterfly fairy. Butterfly fairies are sometimes called the moss people. These lovely creatures have butterfly wings attached to their bodies and come in both female and male forms that are slender and human like. They are very shy. Human sightings are very rare especially as more woodland areas disappear to development. I was inspired to make him in part because I think there needs to be more fairies of color, and in part because I had this awesome pod that was perfect for a fairy hat.
The Great Pumpkin Voodoo doll was inspired by the Great Pumpkin of Peanuts fame. Linus sits in the pumpkin patch waiting for the Great Pumpkin to appear with hopes that he will fly through the air and deliver toys to all the good little children. The mystical side of the Pumpkin archetype goes way back to the pagan belief that evil spirits roamed the earth and returned to their homes at winter time. Jack was a man who was not welcome in heaven or hell when he died, and destined to roam the earthly world. He carried a carved pumpkin - hence the term, "Jack'o Lantern". Celts followed this practice of placing carved pumpkins, potatoes, rutabagas, and turnips in their windows and doors to ward off evil spirits.
This Great Pumpkin was created as a slightly pudgy Voodoo doll out of sticks and Spanish moss, and his face is hand sculpted out of polymer clay. He has a beaded vine coming from the stem of his head which drapes around his body and neck.
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
Hoodoo revolves around veneration of water spirits, the least of which is one of Louisiana's most ancient residents – the ALLIGATOR. This Swamp Granny Hoodoo Gator carries with her the essence of the most traditional of rootwork ingredients, and is the keeper of ancient wisdom.
Swamp Granny Hoodoo Gator is one of my favorite creations. She is constructed in the traditional New Orleans fashion out of Spanish moss and sticks, and her face is hand sculpted out of polymer clay and painted. She has an evil eye bead on top of her head to ward off evil and negativity. A piece of vintage lace drapes over her head. A turtle sits on her shoulder and she wears a necklace of a number of symbolic talismans. She is rather large, measuring approximately 14.5 x 6 inches. As with all of my pieces, she comes signed by me for authenticity.
To see more Hoodoo Voodoo dolls, check out the Mystic Voodoo. There you can see my Hoodoo Root doctors and witchdoctors, as well as a complete line of Voodoo dolls and Voodoo art dolls.
Saturday, September 15, 2007
I came across this article and thought it was worthwhile noting. It talks about how a religious group in Ontario is protesting a documentary that features Argentinian artists who make powerful social statements through their art. One of the artists apparently has a rendering of the Virgin Mary as a Voodoo doll, which is one of the pieces causing an uproar. You can read the whole story here.
Indeed, religion and politics have always been a powerful influence in the creative processes of many artists. In the Voodoo Pantheon, there is an important group of female goddesses whose first name is Erzulie. Erzulie is three in aspect: she can be Erzulie Freda, a virgin goddess likened to the Virgin Mary; Erzulie Dantor, patron loa of lesbian women and protector of women and children who have been abused; or La Siren, a personification of the sea and goddess of motherhood. Erzulie Erzulie Dantor, is often depicted as the Black Madonna (pictured)or the Roman Catholic "Saint Barbara Africana". My rendering of Erzulie Dantor as a Voodoo doll displays the same scars on her cheek as the Black Madonna.
Erzulie’s personal story is a tragedy. She was a warrioress who fought with her people during the Haitian revolution. However, her own people cut out her tongue so that she would not tell their secrets should she be captured. Thus, she is mute and can only speak a stammering monosyllable, "ke-ke-ke-ke-ke!" This is the sound of her tongue clicking on the roof of her mouth. She is often pictured with her daughter Anais, who serves as her translator and interpreter.
Read more about Erzulie here.
Thursday, September 13, 2007
In Vodou, Ma'man Brigit (Grann Brigitte, Manman, Manman Brigit, Manman Brijit) is the mother of cemetaries, the loa of money and death, and the wife of Baron Samedi. She may be related to the "triple" Celtic goddess of poetry, smithcraft, and healing, Brigid/St. Brigit, as her name is Irish in origin. She is usually depicted as a white woman. The first woman's grave in a cemetery in Haiti is dedicated to her. Her colors are black, purple and white, her number is nine, and her particular days of service include Monday and Saturday. Her sacrificial animal is a black chicken. She drinks rum laced with hot peppers - "gaz lakrimojen Ayisyen" (Haitian tear gas), and like her husband and the rest of the Guede Spirits, she is a "potty mouth" and uses profanity. Ma'man Brigit will protect gravestones if they are marked properly with a cross. Ma'man Brigit is known to rub her private parts with hot peppers, and those who appear to be faking possession by her in a Vodou ceremony may be subjected to this test, which they obviously would not pass if their possession is not genuine. She is a very sexual dancer, and her skill in the banda dance is legendary.
Ma'man Brigit is one of my best selling dolls. To make a Ma'man Brigit Voodoo art doll, I start with the basic two sticks and Spanish moss and then I wrap her in white vintage laces. I craft her face out of polymer clay and give her a white complexion and bright red lips, pointing to her Celtic roots. I try to make her very beautiful, as that is the way she comes to me. Her hair is made from fancy yarns and Spanish moss, and I drape more lace over her head and shoulders. She wears a necklace with a lamp-worked glass skull bead, signifying her relationship with the dead.
To learn how to make your own Voodoo doll, please visit The Mystic Voodoo.
Read more about Ma'man Brigit...
Saturday, September 8, 2007
I often get emails from people asking "Do I have to use Spanish moss?" and "Where can I find it?" While I have made countless Voodoo dolls out of materials other than Spanish moss, I usually try to incorporate the moss as a sort of trademark. The use of Spanish moss is a decidedly New Orleans thing, and is a perfect example of how you make Voodoo dolls out of what is readily at hand. In New Orleans and Louisiana in general, Spanish moss is part of the natural world. It can be found in parks in the big oak trees and along the bayous in the cypress trees. It is plentiful, a little creepy when applied to doll making, and perfect for making the powerful Voodoo hoodoo dolls that are uniquely New Orleans.
This guy is a ju ju guardian charm doll. A ju ju is an object that is used to keep evil and negativity at bay. Ju ju guardian dolls are typically placed somewhere in the front of the home or by an entrance. I adorn my ju ju guardian dolls with a number of charms; hence, the title, Ju Ju Guardian Charm Doll.
You never used to see this style of doll outside of New Orleans, but now you can find people making them that are from anywhere. It is apparent that many of my creations are influencing others; this is evident in their titles and appearance (you know who you are). They say imitation is the sincerest from of flattery. I agree and love that my art can inspire others. That is what art is about, after all. To create an emotional response in others, to move people to think differently about the world. However, I actually ran across someone who copied one of my entire lenses at Squidoo and pasted it - pictures and all - into her blog. Without giving me any kind of credit, mind you. That is what is irritating. It took me hours to create that tutorial, the content is mine under Federal Copyright laws. So, if you plan to use any of my material, including the names of my dolls, please give me credit. I always give credit where credit is due. It would be nice (and legal) if others did the same.
Okay, that was my rant for the morning. Now feast your eyes on my wonderful new creation, made out of raffia, feathers, beads, fancy yarns, charms, and polymer clay. He has bright red lips and a crystal on his forehead, which is one of my trademarks. He is quite the gay fellow, isn't he?
To purchase one of my ju ju guardian charm dolls, head on over to the Mystic Voodoo, where art, psychology, and mythology collide!