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DECK THE HOLIDAY'S: July 2011

Friday, July 29, 2011

15 GREATEST HALLOWEEN PARTY SONGS!!

   The night of trick or treating, costumes, candy, and all things spooky.In celebration,  Here is  a list of the 10 songs that absolutely must featured at your halloween party – or, failing that, songs you must load onto your iPod to help you get in the mood. I have tried very hard to provide you with the most diverse and interesting set of songs possible – so while you may not see all of your favorites, you should see at least one or two new ones to add to your collection.




 15.  Bark at the Moon/Ozzy Osbourne






   A list like this would not be complete without the awesomeness which is Ozzy Osbourne! This track is from the Bark at the Moon Album recorded in 1983. Ozzy is, of course, most famous for being the lead singer of Black Sabbath and it would be seriously wrong not to include him on this list.




14.  Devil Went Down To Georgia/Charlie Daniels Band





   We have two firsts on this list – things I never thought I would see! One is Marilyn Manson, and the other is country music! It isn’t my personal favorite, but this song definitely rates as a classic Halloween party song perfect to get people moving about and dancing. It contains brilliant violin playing by Charlie Daniels and even the most anti-country music people should enjoy it.



13.  The Raven/The Alan Parsons Project




   Granted it isn’t the most horrifying song, but it is a tribute to Edgar Allan Poe and provides a nice alternative to some of the heavier music on this list. This is probably the best song to play as your party is nearing an end – when people are either too drunk to care what you play, or sober enough to appreciate the lyrics which are taken directly from the Poe poem of the same title.



12.  I'm Your Boogie Man/White Zombie






   I have to be honest and admit that I had never heard this song before I started researching this list – but it is definitely going to rank high for those of our readers planning a more hardcore party than the others. Also, for those of you who are planning to spread humbug this Halloween, you can play this at a very loud volume and you will frighten all the kids and parents who are trick or treating – save on candy costs!



11.  Bad Moon Rising/Creedence Clearwater Revival





   This is a great hit from the ’60s which went to number one in the UK. While it is not a particularly scary track, it is, for many people listening, likely to bring back many memories of Halloween parties of the past. This is one of my favorite songs on the list.

10.  Ghostbusters Theme






   This song is a lighthearted song – most appropriate for the early stages of your Halloween party. This (and item 3 on the list) is perfect for playing as your guests are arriving and having their first drinks. It is also perfect for a kids Halloween party. And if you want some entertainment for the night, why not watch the film



9.  The Addams Family Theme
 
 



   The Addams Family was a 1964 hit series based on cartoons by Charles Addams. The theme will be familiar to most people either through the original series of the much more recently made movie. This is a great quirky hit for your party – a definite must-play.



8.  Welcome to my Nightmare/Alice Cooper






   This song is from the album of the same name by Alice Cooper. It is a concept album in which each track progressively details the passage of a nightmare. This is the opening track and what could be more perfect for a loud Halloween Party.




7.  This Is Halloween/Marilyn Manson







   Rather than use the original soundtrack version of the song, I have chosen to use the Marilyn Manson version because I like it much more and think it has a better Halloween “feel” about it. I also love the Panic at the Disco version, but there is no doubt that the Manson version is the spookiest. The song is, of course, the title track of the brilliant Tim Burton film “The Nightmare before Christmas”.



6.  O Fortuna/Carl Orff





   Everyone knows this song – it has been used in hundreds of horror movies. While the song sounds very eerie, the translation of the Latin original is not quite so spooky – it actually means “O Fortune, you wax and wane like the moon”. Hardly frightening stuff, but most people don’t know what it means and it will chill everyone that hears it to the bone! A definite must-have for Halloween. Oh – and it is from the cantata called Carmina Burana.



5.  Tubular Bells
 
 




   Anyone who has seen the Exorcist will appreciate the eeriness of this soundtrack. It plays at the start of the film as the main actress walks home from a day filming. The scene is full of moody shots of Washington in fall with children trick or treating. It lulls you in to a false sense of security before all hell breaks loose (literally) in the form of possessed girl Regan. This song will always be my favorite Halloween theme. Oh – and if you don’t already have a copy of the movie.



4.  Werewolves of London/Warren Zevon
 
 
 




   This excellent track by Warren Zevon features drumming by Mick Fleetwood of Fleetwood Mac. It will be familiar to most people through its constant (over-)use in movies. Everyone will expect to hear this song at a party – don’t disappoint them.



3.  Monster Mash/Bobby Picket






    If there is any one song on this list that people will be expecting to see – it is this. Monster Mash is a hilarious and fun song from 1962 sung by Bobby “Boris” Pickett. In a bizarre and rather lame attempt at a comeback, Picket released a spin-off of the song in 2005 called “Climate Mash”, a version with re-written lyrics about global warming and new vocals which was released on the Internet by the organization Clear the Air. Forget clearing the air for now – fill it with spooky mist and party!


2.  Toccata and Fugue in D Minor/J S Bach






   Of this most famous piece of classical music, Wikipedia says: The Toccata and Fugue in D minor, BWV 565, is a piece of organ music commonly attributed to Johann Sebastian Bach, composed sometime between 1703 and 1707. It is one of the most famous works in the organ repertoire, and has been used in a variety of popular media ranging from film, to video games, to rock music, to cellphone ringtones and used for the autumn holiday Halloween. I doubt a single person here will not know it. Props to Bach for writing music so cool that even non-classical lovers still listen to it – 300 years later!


1. Thriller/Michael Jackson



   Michael Jackson had to be number one. This track was damned scary when it came out, and it is still damned scary (though perhaps for different reasons now). I am sure that no one will dispute this item’s placement as number one greatest halloween party song. Allow me to finish with a little inappropriate humor: do you know why Michael Jackson loves Halloween? Free delivery right to his door.

SANTA MARTA de RIBARTEME FROM SPAIN!!




   The Fiesta de Santa Marta de Ribarteme, also known as the festival of near death experiences, is a slightly odd festival to say the least. Held in a small Spanish village, that borders Portugal – Las Nieves, Pontevedra, in Galicia and taking place on the 29th of July.





   The Festival of near death experiences, as its name suggests, is a celebration for those people who have had a near death experience and lived to tell the tale. Saint Marta de Ribarteme is the patron Saint of resurrection.
The lucky ‘survivors’ attend the festival in a coffin.
It is a good place to go if you want to catch up on tales of different near death experiences.






    Even though centered around a fairly morbid theme, the festival itself is a celebration with firework displays and the usually partying that carries on well into the following day.
   Thousands of people line the streets of this tiny village. At 10am, the relatives of the people who narrowed escaped death are expected to carry their loved ones in coffins to the small church where there is a shrine to the Virgin Santa Marta.







   After Mass, which is projected across the village using loudspeakers, the procession then walks to the local cemetery and then back to the church with a large statue of the Virgin Santa Marta overseeing the celebrations.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

TOP 10 MYTHOLOGICAL CREATURES AND SHAPESHIFTERS!

   Shapeshifting is a common theme in mythology and folklore. Many legendary creatures have this ability, which is represented in a full body transformation. It enables the creature to trick, deceive, hunt, and kill humans. Throughout history many murder sprees have been attributed to the presence of these beings. As Halloween is just around the corner, this list might help to give you all some ideas for a costume if you are going to a party.


10.  Leshy
Leshy



   The Leshy is a male woodland spirit in Slavic mythology believed to protect wild animals and the forests. They usually appear as tall men, but have the ability to change size and shapeshift into any form, animal or plant. Leshies have beards made of living grass and vines, and are often depicted with a tail, hooves, and horns. The Leshy has pale white skin and dark green eyes. They are the lords of the forest and hold close bonds with gray wolves, bears, and all animal life. When a leshy is in human form it looks like a common peasant, although its eyes glow. The creatures can shrink themselves to the height of a blade of grass or grow to the size of the tallest trees. It is commonly understood that leshies will lead peasants astray, make people sick, and even tickle them to death. The creatures are terribly mischievous and have horrible cries. However, Leshies can also imitate human voices and often times lure lost wanderers to their caves. They aren’t always evil, but enjoy misguiding humans and kidnapping young women.


9.  Selkie
Selkie450



   Selkies are creatures found in Faroese, Icelandic, Irish, and Scottish mythology. They have the ability to transform themselves from seal to human form. Selkies are able to shapeshift by shedding their seal skin, a risky endeavor because they must reapply the same skin in order to return to seal form. Stories surrounding these creatures are usually romantic tragedies. They are allowed to make contact with humans for only a short amount of time before they must return to the sea. In many cases humans have unknowingly fallen in love with selkies. Other times, humans have hidden the skin of the selkie, thus preventing it from returning to seal form. Male selkies are very handsome in their human form, and have great seduction powers over women. If a man finds and steals a female selkie’s skin then she will be under his control and is often times forced to become his wife. The creatures have been known to lure humans into the sea, by creating illusions and a false sense of reality.



8.  Berserker
Troll Berserker Final



   Berserkers were a group of Norse warriors. They are human, but in battle entered into a nearly uncontrollable, trance-like fury, and transformed into wolves, bears, and wild bulls. This enabled the men to fight more effectively. Their name would give rise to the English word “berserk”. Berserkers were said to wear the pelts of bears and wolves as they entered battle and could make the full transformation as they felt necessary. They are characterized as having bloodshot eyes, incredible strength, and endurance. Various Scandinavian kings used berserkers as part of their army or as hired men and royal bodyguards. Similar behavior is described in the Iliad, in which warriors are possessed by Gods and given the power to exhibit superhuman abilities.



7.  Kitsune
Kitsune



   In Japanese folklore the Kitsune is an intelligent and magical being. The creature’s strength increases with age, wisdom, and life experience. Kitsune is a Japanese fox. They have the ability to assume human form and are great tricksters. The creatures are noted for having as many as nine tails. A kitsune may take human form when it reaches a certain age, usually 100 years. They prefer to assume the shape of a beautiful woman, young girl, or elderly man. The creatures have the ability to clone the appearance of an individual. Kitsune have a fear and hatred of dogs. They can willingly manifest themselves in people’s dreams and create illusions so elaborate that they are perceived as reality. The kitsune can fly, become invisible, and often times generate fire or lightning. In some regions of the world the creatures can bend time, space, and drive people mad.



6.  Púca
Goblin3



   The púca is a legendary creature of Celtic folklore, most notably in Ireland, the West of Scotland, and Wales. The púca is a mythological fairy and ultimate shapeshifter. The creatures are capable of assuming a variety of terrifying forms, including a horse, rabbit, goat, goblin, or dog. No matter what shape the púca takes, its fur is always dark. They are most commonly seen as a black horse with a flowing mane and luminescent orange eyes. Púcas have the power to use human speech and although they are known for giving good advice, they also enjoy confusing and terrifying humans. Púcas have a fondness for riddles and are sociable creatures. They love to gather and play pranks on unsuspecting people and children. In many regions of the world the púca is seen as a creature of the mountains and hills. They are incredibly respected and if treated nicely will help humans.



5.  Wendigo
Wendigo-1



   The Wendigo is a creature appearing in the mythology of the Algonquian people. Descriptions of the Wendigo vary across culture, but they are generally described as a large alien-like canine beast. They are malevolent and cannibalistic creatures. Wendigos are strongly associated with the winter, the north, and coldness. Human beings will transform into Wendigos if they perform cannibalism. The person will become possessed by the demonic spirit of the beast, usually in a dream. Once transformed, the individual will become violent and obsessed with eating human flesh. These monsters are the embodiments of gluttony, greed, and excess. They are never satisfied with killing and consuming one person. Wendigos are constantly searching for new victims. They have been classified as giants and upon transformation the human will grow considerably in size. They populate rural and highly forested, mountainous regions. Recently the Wendigo has become a horror entity, much like the vampire, werewolf, or zombie.




4.  Encantado
Princesa-Del-Bosque-Encantado



   An encantado is a Brazilian legendary creature. They live in a deep underwater realm named the Encante. Encantados are most commonly viewed as a type of freshwater dolphin or sea snake that has the ability to shapeshift into human form. They are characterized by superior musical ability, seductiveness, and attraction to parties. The creature’s transformation into human form seems to be rare, and usually occurs at night. While in human form the encantado will wear a hat to hide its protruding forehead. It does not disappear while shapeshifting and frequently displays magical abilities, such as the power to control storms and haunt humans. They use various mind control techniques and can inflict illness, insanity, and even death. The creatures are known for kidnapping humans. Many villagers will not go near the Amazon River at night because of this. Plenty of South Americans believe in the existence of the encantado and claim to have seen and interacted with the species.


3.  Aswang
Aswang 10



    An aswang is a mythical creature in Filipino folklore. The legend of the aswang is well known throughout the Philippines, except in the IIocos region. The creature is described as a combination of vampire and witch and is almost always female. The aswang is an eater of the dead and a cannibal. They are capable of transforming into either a huge black dog or a black boar. The creatures stalk and eat human beings at night. Garlic bulbs, holy water, and other objects are believed to repel aswang. Many stories revolve around these creatures eating children and unborn fetuses. In human form they appear normal, and are quiet, shy, and elusive. At night, they transform into the deadly beast. One key feature of the aswang is its bloodshot eyes. In the Middle Ages, the aswang was the most feared among the mythical creatures in the Philippines.



2.  Vampires
Vampire-Eyes-Sm



   Vampires are legendary creatures said to feed on the blood of humans and animals. It is difficult to make a single, definitive description of the folkloric vampire, although they were usually reported as bloated in appearance, ruddy, purplish, or dark in color. They are shapeshifters and can take many forms, predominantly bats or humans. Vampires are typically described as the undead, although some cultures believe that they can be living. Beginning in the 19th century, modern fiction began to portray vampires as gaunt and pale. In the past, vampire superstition in Europe led to mass hysteria, which resulted in corpses being staked and people being accused of vampirism. Many violent killing sprees have been attributed to vampires. They are known to terrorize their previous neighborhoods and will seduce their victims, waiting for the right moment to attack the neck. The creatures will frequently visit their relatives, particularly their spouses. Vampires are masters of disguise and camouflage. The most recently recorded case of vampirism is that of nineteen-year-old Mercy Brown, who died in Exeter, Rhode Island in 1892.



1.  Lycanthrope
671543-Lycanthrope Super



   Lycanthropes or werewolves are mythological humans that have the ability to shapeshift into wolves or anthropomorphic wolf-like creatures. They can infect the human population with a bite and the creature’s transformation is often associated with a full moon. The lycanthropes mythology originated in Europe, but many accounts are found all over the ancient world. Features of the werewolf include the meeting of both eyebrows at the bridge of the nose, curved fingernails, low set ears, and a swinging stride. They have super-human strength and senses, far beyond those of either wolves or men. The beasts are known to feed on the homeless and easy prey. A person can be identified as a werewolf by cutting into their flesh to reveal hair or by revealing special bristles under their tongue. In returning to the human form the creature becomes weak and debilitated. Up until the 20th century wolf attacks on humans were widely reported causes of mass death in Europe.

OMMEGANG FROM BRUSSELS, BELGIUM!!




   On the first Thursday of July and the previous Tuesday every summer, the Ommegang lights up the magnificent of Brussels.

History


   The secular setting stages the glorious and majestic procession in Brussels of Emperor Charles V Guests of honour sit at the delicately worked windows of the Town Hall to watch the reconstitution of this historical meeting from the beautifully decorated balconies. The Prince of Orange, who would become William the Silent, many ladies in waiting, city councillors, the emperor's bulldog and other hounds, his fal conry train with ladies carrying skittish birds perched proudly on their hands--all accompany the Emperor. Accompanied by his son Philip, Crown Prince of Spain and Duke of Brabant, and his sisters Eleanor, Queen of France and Mary of Austria, Queen of Hungary and Regent of the Netherlands. This majestic pageant strides along the proud façades that once housed the guilds and the elegant architecture of the Town Hall, one of the handsomest gothic monuments in Belgium.




   Guests of honour sit at the delicately worked windows of the Town Hall to watch the reconstitution of this historical meeting from the beautifully decorated balconies. The Prince of Orange, who would become William the Silent, many ladies in waiting, city councillors, the emperor's bulldog and other hounds, his fal conry train with ladies carrying skittish birds perched proudly on their hands--all accompany the Emperor. The host is the mayor of city of Brussels. All the town's nobles, rich tradesmen and curious townsfolk were graciously invited to the centuries-old Grand Place.
   The pageant winds its way on foot and on horse, flying banners and pennants, in a colourful but solemn token to the opulence of the Renaissance city on display for all to see.
   This was in 1549. And not hing has changed since then, except that today the Ommegang is a theatrical representation of this historical event.



Charles V


Charles V

   Charles V was the son of Philip the Handsome, Archduke of Austria (son of Maximilian of Austria and Mary of Burgundy) and Joan the Mad (daughter of Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile).
   Charles' father died when he was just six, leaving him his Burgundy estate, Flanders, Artois and Franche-Comté. The Flemish then called on his paternal grandfather, Maximilian of Austria as regent. In 1516, when his other grandfather, Ferdinand of Aragon, died he became Charles I of Spain with its enormous empire: Castile, Aragon, Navarre, Sardinia, Sicily, Naples... and the American colonies.







   At the death of Maximilian in 1519, the throne of the Empire fell vacant. Elections were organised, and Charles was elected in preference to Francis I, thanks to the financial assistance of the banker Fugger.

He had become Charles V...


The start of a difficult reign(1519-1521)

   His first problem was to gain recognition of his authority in Spain.
In Aragon, the people wanted to maintain their special rights in those provinces; the Castilians recognised his mother, Joan the Mad, as their legitimate sovereign, and generally speaking, the Spanish feared that as emperor, Charles would be overly preoccupied with central Europe.
   So when he left to visit Germany in 1520, revolt broke out in Toledo. It was repressed, but Charles' power continued to be challenged until he returned in 1522.





The struggle with France and the sixth Italian war(1521-1526)

   Conflict with France began in 1521. The French invaded Navarre, but were unsuccessful in the Netherlands. As the war dragged on, a congress was held in Calais, an English possession.
   The mediation of King Henry VIII of England was a failure--on the contrary, the English King concluded an alliance with the Emperor--France was attacked from both Picardy and Spain. In the meantime, the war around Milan continued. By means of a pact with Leo X in 1520, the imperial forces recovered Milan (1521). Parma and Piacenza were returned to the Church. The rout of the French continued after they lost the battle of Bicocca and after the Pope died in 1522
   The following year, Charles V decided to invade France. An imperial army commanded by a French traitor, the High Constable Charles de Bourbon, attempted a sally in Provence but it was stopped. In the north, the English were humiliated, in Burgundy the Germans were pushed back and in Guyenne, the Spanish were stopped. Francis I took these victories to heart and marched on Milan. But the campaign was disastrous--it ended in Pavia where the king was captured (1525).
   He was transferred to Spain, where he was humiliated and cruelly treated by Charles V. Francis I threatened to abdicate, which would have foiled Charles' victory. In the end, the French king was forced to sign the Treaty of Madrid in exchange for his freedom (January 1528), but it was never applied.






Charles V's allies change sides--the seventh Italian war(1526-1529)
   The all-powerful Charles V had his allies worried. Henry VIII made overtures to Francis I and Pope Clement VII took the head of a league of Italian states. The league was defeated, and Charles de Bourbon, who had his troops to pay, sacked Rome (1527). The Pope was imprisoned in the name of the emperor, causing indignation in all Europe.
   As the war drew on and on, it became expensive. Francis I and Charles V signed the peace of Cambrai (August 1529) by which the emperor definitively renounced his claim to Burgundy. He visited Italy the following year, re-establishing the Medicis in Florence and was crowned the King of Lombardy and Emperor of the Romans by the Pope.







The crusade against the Turks

   Francis I had signed a Capitulation with the Turks, and Venice preferred to negotiate its own interests peacefully. Charles V was thus on his own in opposing the Ottomans. He had to watch the Hungarian border and the Mediterranean. In the east, the Turks took Belgrade in 1521, followed by Rhodes. They were not stopped until Vienna in 1529.
   The Turks were also making headway in the western Mediterranean with the help of their corsairs (including Barberossa and Dragut). They notably took Tunis in 1534 (recaptured by Doria the following year), Algiers (1541), Tripoli (1551), Penon (1564) and Bougie (1555). Indian gold: In 1503, the Casa de Contratacion centralised the American possessions.







   But their riches did not begin to flow before the discovery of the precious metals in upper Peru in 1545. But as no campaign can triumph without money, Charles V would certainly have been more successful had this discovery been made a few years earlier. By 1545, the Turks had been successful in the Mediterranean and France had not give up an inch of territory.

The end of the reign: the decline of the Hapsburg
   In addition, the money came through Spain, but did not stay there. It created opportunities for other powers, hastening the decline of the Habsburg reign. Charles V had to deal with the Protestants throughout his reign. In 1538, he signed a truce with the Smalkalde league supported by Francis I. In 1547, he overcame the Lutheran princes at the battle of Mühlberg and required their return to the Catholic church in a regulation called the Augsburg Interim.







   But the Protestants claimed allegiance with the new King of France, Henry II. Charles V was nearly taken prisoner at Innsbruck and faced with that show of force, he negotiated the Passau Treaty authorising the exercise of the Protestant religion.
   But the trouble continued until the death of the main cause, Maurice Elector of Saxony, and in 1555 the Peace of Augsburg was signed, recognising the Protestant faith throughout the empire according to the principal of "cujus regio, ejus religio". Weakened and disappointed, Charles withdraw to the Netherlands and cut them off from the Empire.



Phillip of Spain



Phillip of Spain

   Son of the Emperor Charles the Fifth and the Empress Isabella of Portugal.
   All these festivals of 1549 were organised in his honour.
   They aim to make him recognised by the population of the Netherlands as the successor of Charles the Fifth. The prince is the widow of Marie of Portugal. He will mary later on Mary I of England, Queen regnant of England and Ireland, Elisabeth of Valois, Pincess of France and his niece, Marie-Anne de Habsbourg of Austria.
  The disorders of the Netherlands will show that Philip of Spain had not understood the sensivity of these countries, on the contrary to his father, who was their natural Prince
The methodes employed by the Spanish Crown wil cause the separation of the Seventeen Provinces, with,on one hand, the North,The United Provinces, which will take William de Nassau as their leader, and they will follow protestantism. One the other hand , The South, The Meridional Provinces, which will remain attached to the Habsbourg of Spain and later of Austria untill the French Revolution.. They will preserve catholicism.



Mary of Austria

Mary of Austria

   Regent of the Netherlands for a period of 25 years.
   The fourth daughter of Philip the Handsome and Joan of Castile, Mary was born in Brussels at the Coudenberg Palace, on September 15, 1505. Despite an unhappy childhood and adolescence, she was famed for her abundant energy, which stood her in good stead when she later became regent of the Netherlands. Losing her father at the age of one, she was taken in by her paternal Aunt Margaret, the Governor of the Netherlands, as her mother, Joan of Castile, had been incarcerated as a result of her insanity.






   At seven years of age she became engaged to the heir to the Kingdoms of Hungary and Bohemia. They were wed in 1522. Four years later, the young monarch was killed in a battle against the Turks. The young widow was inconsolable and decided never to marry again, but to remain in Hungary as regent until her brother, Ferdinand, became King of Hungary and Bohemia. He converted the hereditary crowns into hereditary possessions of the house of Habsburg, and so they remained until 1913.
   In 1528, the Queen returned to Mechelen. Two years later, Margaret of Austria suddenly died, thus leaving the post of Governor of the Netherlands vacant. Charles V immediately thought of his sister Mary, who hesitated before accepting the position, for fear of "putting a cord around her neck", at least for a temporary period. The temporary period was to last for 25 years.







   As Duchess of Burgundy, Margaret of Austria enjoyed some degree of independence during time she governed, unlike Mary of Hungary, who turned out to be an obedient regent. She ruled in a zealous and conscientious manner, always ready to agree with her brother. She surprised everyone by displaying sophisticated financial skills and becoming adept at developing military strategies.

The Lady On Sablon's Church

   Erected in 1304 by the crossbow guild in a marshy plain, this chapel was rebuilt at the beginning of the XVth century, as the devotion of Brussel's population for the Virgin's statue kept growing. This statue was brought from Antwerp by Beatrice Soetkens during a night in 1348.






   This tertiary ogival building, that lasted more than one century, had an unusual chancel: without columns and ambulatory. This absence of side parts in front of the eleven lanceolated windows (14 m high) gives it an outstanding slenderness.
The restoration began in 1864 with the chancel, and in 1878 the sides of the nave were cleared from parasitic houses. The restoration was led by the architect Schoy, followed by J. and M. Van Ysendyck. In the right transept, under a superb rose-window, a carving of the XVIIth century represents the boat carrying the miraculous statue.

Ommegang

   The expression "Ommegang" meaning "procession" is derived from the old Flemish words "omme" (around) and "gang" (walk).
   Several Belgian cities had an Ommegang particularly in Flanders. They were always characterised by fervent religious faith, and also included a large, opulent secular participation of the guilds, crafts, and chambers of rhetoric.







   With the name of Beatrice Soetkens and the construction of the church Our Lady of Sablon It all began in 1348, under the reign of Duke John III of Brabant.
   At that time, Brussels was beginning to flourish and was learning how to become a major city. The population of some forty thousand inhabitants was comparable to that of London. The city was surrounded by massive walls four kilometres long, topped with a parapet and boasting fifty towers. Brussels opened seven doors to the world through which goods poured to its markets from the surrounding Brabant countryside and foreign lands. Barges, too, slowly inched their way along the Senne to the heart of the city laden with important loads from other towns.
   The cloth industry had made Brussels rich and tradesmen consorted with the best of society under the supervision of the Amman, an officer of the Duke of Brabant. He owed his authority and competence to the fact that he presided the City Council, saw to the execution of orders and commanded the sergeants at arms.






   But back to our famous Beatrice Soetkens. As tradition would have it, she, the wife of a poor workman in the cloth industry, heard voices one day. She learned that the Virgin Mary, Mother of God, wanted to reward the town of Brussels, and particularly the Crossbow-men's guild for having built a chapel in her honour on the hill at the Sablon. Beatrice was given the mission to go to Antwerp and bring back the miraculous statue of the Virgin venerated there as Our Lady of the Branch (O.L.V. op 't Stokske).
   These voices totally upset Beatrice--she could do nothing but obey. She hurriedly rowed to Antwerp with her husband, and ran to the cathedral to get the statue. The Sacristan tried to stop her, but how could he resist divine will?

He was petrified on the spot, voiceless and motionless!
   Beatrice returned to the boat in her haste to get back to Brussels. But her husband quickly tired of rowing against the current and the wind. Fortunately the Lord was watching--the boat floated upstream to Brussels on its own volition and landed on the spot where the crossbow-men of the guild were practising.
   Intrigued by the arrival of this tiny craft glowing with an unearthly light and piping sweet music, they questioned Beatrice who recounted the cause and circumstances of her expedition to Antwerp.
   The event was deemed a miracle. Even the townsfolk of Antwerp who stormed to Brussels, agreed that it was extraordinary. They consented to leave the statue at the Sablon to be venerated there in the chapel. In addition, a solemn promise was made to erect a church worthy of the event and to organise an annual procession to carry the Virgin around the church under the protection of the Great Crossbow-men's guild.







So the Ommegang was born!

   The origin of this famous procession was indeed the expression of religious fervour supported by a military authority. Gradually the Ommegang became a great town event. Civil authorities, the crafts, chambers of rhetoric and the guilds took their place in front of the clergy.
   It became the magnificent pageant celebrated through the centuries to modern times. Like every year, the " Ommegang Oppidi Bruxellensis" Royal Society continues in the tradition of these centuries-old pageants with historical reference, in the incomparable setting of the Grand-Place of Brussels.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

RUSSIAN HISTORY AND CULTURE: NAME DAYS!!

   Russia has a vibrant culture that is expressed with a variety of celebrations. Russians get to enjoy the holidays of Christmas and New Year twice, thanks to the Julian and Gregorian calendar dates, and they also celebrate many other special occasions not commonly shared by the United States. Name days are one example of celebratons that
are observed by many European and Latin American countries, and still highly regarded today by many Russians.




   Name day celebrations began back in the 1600's with the creation of calendars honoring the many saints of the Orthodox church. The day that a particular saint died came to be known as their feast day. Since many people of that time were named after saints, they would celebrate each other in addition to honoring the saints. With the help of the churches, saints' feasts days became more popular than birthdays and were soon referred to as name days, or angel days.





    Name day celebrations can be often found in Russian literature, as in Anton Chekov's play Three Sisters. The whole first act surrounds Irena, the youngest sister, who is enchanted by a spinning top she receives on her name day. Alexander Pushkin's novel Eugene Onegin also references this tradition by describing a festive party for Tatiana, the main female character, whose popular name day is January 25th. This date is also recognized as Student's Day because Moscow University was founded on that day in 1775.







   Over the years, the custom of celebrating name days has decreased in popularity, although lots of Russian ladies, more often than men, still look forward to these days. Special calendar are usually kept to take note of whose days are when, since some dates honor multiple names and some names are celebrated many different days. For instance, January 19th is the name day for Lidia and Maria, but Maria is also celebrated on February 8th, March 31st, and many other dates throughout the year since there are many saints who share that name







   Modern celebrations of name days include church services and small gatherings with family and friends. Some Russians enjoy the giving and receiving of special name day cards and gifts. Whichever ways they celebrate them, the rich hostory and culture of Russia continues to be memorialized with certain age old traditions such as name days.


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

NACHI FIRE FESTIVAL FROM JAPAN!!

  



   The Nachi Fire Festival is one of Japan's cultural gems. Listed as an intangible cultural asset the festival has a history of more than 1500 years and is one of the most spectacular festivals of the summer. Held on July 14th each year, the Nachi no Hi Matsuri or Nachi Ogi Matsuri (Fan Festival) is a traditional fire festival involving ritual offerings, music and dance. The festival is held in a remote area of the Yoshino-Kumano National Park on the Kii Peninsula. The shrines where the Nachi Fire Festival takes place are part of the UNESCO World Heritage list, the Kumano Nachi Grand Shrine and the Hiryu shrine, which is located at the base of the massive Nachi waterfall, which with a 133 meter (about 436 feet) drop is the highest waterfall in Japan.






   The festival involves 12 (portable) mikoshi shrines, each decorated with mirrors and gold, and 12 massive ceremonial torches. Carried from Kumano Nachi Grand Shrine down the old Kumano road to the Hiryu shrine, they are then purified by fire and water. The festival is fantastic, you can feel the spray from the waterfall and you can feel the






heat on your face from the torches - it is usually prudent to keep a safe distance as it is isn't unusual for the fire bearers to lose control and singe a few spectators. Known as the Nachi-no-Hi-Matsuri or Nachi-Ogi-Matsuri (Fan Festival), the event begins on the morning of 14 July every year with ritual Shinto offerings, music and dance. In the afternoon the 12 sacred mikoshi, beautifully decorated with gold and mirrors, are carried along with 12 ceremonial torches towards the Hiryu shrine, located near Nachi waterfall.






   White-robe priests carry 12 enormous torches of cypress wood. These purify the path for the unique mikoshi of Nachi. Usually mikoshi (portable shrines) look like palanquins, but these are 10m (30ft) tall vermilion panels decorated with mirrors and fans (this is also known as Ogi Matsuri, the 'Fan Festival'). In the background are the vermilion pillars of the shrine, and the 133m (436ft) waterfall which first attracted Emperor Jimmu to worship here at the dawn of Japanese civilisation.






   Following a sacred ritual in the shrine itself, the mikoshi are carried to the stone steps just under the waterfall, where the torches are lit and the torch-carriers purify them by walking up and down the steps in circles. The purification by fire and smoke is completed by water, in the form of the mist spraying from above. The Kumano mountains have been revered as the site of great mystical power for more than 1000 years. A Buddhist paradise was said to be hidden among the peaks, to be reached in life by the devout worshipper who undertook a pilgrimage to the mountains and prayed at the shrines.

Monday, July 25, 2011

UNDERSTANDING WITCH LEGENDS!




    In recent years, modern witches have become more and more accepted. Some of them play on many of the old concepts of a traditional 'witch', but by and large the stereotypical image of a broom riding crone with a point hat does not match at all with the reality. So where is it that this image came from? Many of the common 'wicked witch' images are derived from periods of time when a witch was considered to be a catch-all term for a person who had a pact with demons or the devil himself. These are just a few of the origins for the iconic 'witch'.







   Conical Hats - Medieval woodcuttings showed any number of variations on what witches wore, so where did the conical black hat with the wide rim originate? The witches hat became known as it is now somewhere between Victorian times and the turn of the century. They became common in the illustration of evil witches in children's stories. Why did it become thus? That is less clear. There are a number of theories about the origin. One theory says it was a modified dunce's cap. Yet another equates it to the headgear worn by the goddess Diana who is associated with witches. Some say it is tied to the common medieval viewpoint that had Jews wearing conical hats due to rumors that they held blasphemous Sabbaths that were parallel to the Witches' Sabbaths. The Church frowned on pointed hats, because they associated them with devil's horns, so there again is another potential origin. We may never be fully certain of how the image itself was come to, possibly a combination of several of these theories is the truth.




    Black Cats -Two things have caused this associate most likely. First is that a witch was supposedly granted an impish familiar by their pact with the devil. This imp would often take a more common form such as that of a cat.  Since cats were so common on farms for controlling rodent populations, it wasn't hard to find one or more when you went after someone who was supposedly a witch. Showing too much affection towards the mouser in the barn might be an indication that it was more than a working animal. Another idea of cats was that a witch could convert herself into a black cat and go skulking about. In fact, the fear of a black cat crossing your path comes from the fear that it is a witch in disguisewho is bringing evil into your life. Bad luck indeed.







   Warts - In keeping with the idea that one had a familiar that was a gift of some da
rk entity, the common belief was that the owner of a familiar had a small growth known as a 'witches' teat' or 'witches' mark'. Any wart, mole or fleshy growth could be used as 'proof' that you were indeed practicing dark arts. This is highlighted in stories of the witch trials. In medieval times, the mark was supposed to be found on hidden areas of the body, but over time when one wanted to draw a clear picture that someone was indeed a witch, putting a visible wart on their face was meant as a symbol of their connection to the dark arts being openly displayed. Even older versions of this mark were supposed the branding of the witch by having the devil rake his claws or an iron on their skin to leave a blue or red mark. Of course, there are a number of theories about the witches' mark that range from tattoos to Lyme disease, but the wart is what has become synonymous with our perceptions of the classic witch.






   Flying Brooms - Here is where it gets odd. The flying broom concept is very sketchy and the leading theory right now is that it tied to hallucinogens that made someone feel like they were flying. Early accounts stated that a stick or similar object would be greased with a special 'flying ointment'. Witches would 'fly' in order to divine the future. This flight was actually one of the spirit, brought on through the use of specialized folk medicines that were put into the body. It was known that the body would absorb these drugs more potently if applied inside the anus or vagina, so of course the smooth rounded top of a broomstick or similar tool was the logical item in ancient times for applying the ointments. Once applied, hallucinations began and the witch would 'fly' away from his or her body. There are also notations that a 'wand' could be at times disguised as the stick of a broom, adding to the association of witches to the broom.






   These things we associate with the iconic image of the witch all have their origins in commonly held beliefs or logical extensions of the way things were in times past. Other aspects that had very real ties to the world that came before us include the use of a cauldron, the large buckled boots, black clothing and long crooked noses. I encourage you to seek out more if you find yourself interested in how these seemingly random jumbles of traits all had a starting point that makes good sense when you understand the history behind them.

NATHAN'S FAMOUS HOT DOG EATING CONTEST FROM NEW YORK!!


  The Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest is an annual American competitive-eating competition, which is run as a publicity gathering event by Shea Communications. It is held each July 4 at Nathan's Famous Corporation's original, and best-known restaurant at the corner of Surf and Stillwell Avenues in Coney Island, a neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York. In 2011 over 40,000 spectators attended the event, and an additional 1.949 million viewers watched it live on ESPN television.
   The contest has gained public attention in recent years due to the sudden stardom of Takeru Kobayashi, his subsequent rivalry with American Joey Chestnut, and the current controversy over Kabayashi's contractual dispute and absence. In the ninety-sixth annual contest, held on July 4, 2011, four-time-defending champion Chestnut won his fifth title by consuming 62 hot dogs and buns (HDBs) in ten minutes. Recently he was beaten by Kim B with 65 hot dogs in 10 minutes The contest was televised live on ESPN,  which has held the broadcast rights for this event since 2004.






History and traditions

   According to legend, on July 4, 1916, four immigrants had a hot dog eating contest at Nathan's Famous stand on Coney Island to settle an argument about who was the most patriotic. The contest has been held at the site nearly every year since, resuming in 1972, in conjunction with Independence Day.   In 1993, a one-time, one-on-one contest under the Brooklyn Bridge was held between Mike DeVito and Orio Ito.
   There is a weigh-in with the Mayor of New York City prior to the contest. On the day of the contest, the contestants arrive in the "bus of champions".
   In recent years, guitarist and songwriter Amos Wengler has performed one of the songs he had written for the contest. A person in a hot dog costume dances as Wengler plays. Some of Wengler's compositions are "Hot Dog Time!", "Hot Dogs, Hot Dogs" and "Where is the Belt?" by John Jones.






    Starting in 2011, women and men will compete in separate competitions.
   The winner (starting in 2011, the men's competition) is given possession of the coveted international "bejeweled" mustard-yellow belt. The belt is of "unknown age and value" according to IFOCE co-founder George Shea and rests in the country of its owner. Due to the string of Japanese wins in the first half of the 2000 decade, the belt had been on display in the Imperial Palace in Saitama, Japan, near the Nakazato Danchi campus. In 2007, Chestnut won the first of four consecutive victories in the contest which has kept the belt in the U.S. to the present day. Starting in 2011, the winner of the new women's competition is given possession of a similar pink belt.

 Rules

   Only adults 18 years or older who fulfill one of the following four conditions may compete:
  • The defending champion
  • Winners of a regional qualifying contest for that season
  • Qualifying as one of two wildcards (highest two average qualifier scores without winning a single qualifer)
  • Special invitation by IFOCE (see "Controversies" below)




       The International Federation of Competitive Eating (IFOCE) has sanctioned the event since 1997. Today, only entrants currently under contract by the IFOCE can compete in the contest.
       Rules used in the early years of the contest were different from today's. For example, in past contests minors could compete (Birgit Felden from Germany was age 17 when she won the 1984 contest.)
       During the event, the field of about 20 contestants stands on a raised platform behind a 30-foot (9.1 m)-long table with drinks and Nathan's Famous hot dogs in buns. Most contestants drink water, but other kinds of drinks can and have been used. Condiments are allowed, but are usually not used. The hot dogs themselves are allowed to cool slightly after grilling to prevent possible mouth burns. In the past, whoever consumed







    (and kept down until the contest had ended) the most hot dogs and buns ("HDBs") in 12 minutes was declared the winner. Starting in 2008, however, the contest has been only 10 minutes long due to recent evidence suggesting the original contest in 1916 was this length. A designated scorekeeper is paired with each contestant. The IFOCE official flips a number board counting the hot dogs consumed. Partially eaten hot dogs count and the granularity of measurement is eighths of a length. Hot dogs still in the mouth at the end of the 10 minutes count only if they are swallowed. Yellow cards can be issued for "messy eating," and disqualificiation can occur for "reversal of fortune."
       After the winner is declared, a plate with the number of hot dogs eaten by the winner is brought out for photo opportunities.




     Qualifying contests

       First held nationally in 1993 and internationally in 1997, qualifying contests are used to determine contestants for the July 4th competition. A qualifier winner cannot compete in another qualifier in the same year and no contestant can compete in more than three qualifiers in the same season. Each qualifier can have at most 15 participants (typically first-come first-served). A world record that is broken in a qualifier is official, but the winner does not get to hold the belt.

     Prizes

       Winners receive a trophy, two cases of Nathan's Famous hot dogs, the famous Nathan's Belt (yellow for men's competition, and pink for women's competition), and in some years a nonmonetary prize donated by a sponsor. For example, in 2004 Orbitz donated a travel package to the winner.






    of $20,000 was awarded as follows:
    • First Place: $10,000
    • Second Place: $5,000
    • Third Place: $2,500
    • Fourth Place: $1,500
    • Fifth Place: $1,000

     Controversy

       Controversies usually revolve around supposed breaches of rules that are missed by the judges. For example, NY1 television news reporter Adam Balkin reviewed taped footage of the 1999 contest and noticed that Steve Keiner ate half of a hot dog before the contest had officially begun. The judge, who was standing directly in front of Keiner, missed it – otherwise Keiner would have been disqualified. According to the rules, the judge's word is final, so in this case Keiner took first place despite Balkin's discovery.






       Another controversy occurred in 2003 when former NFL Player William "The Refrigerator" Perry competed as a celebrity contestant. Though he had won a qualifier by eating twelve hot dogs, he ate only four H.D.B.s at the contest, stopping eating completely just five minutes into the competition. On July 1, 2004, at a ceremony following a showing of Crazy Legs Conti's documentary, George Shea stated that the celebrity contestant experiment will likely not be repeated.
       At the 2007 contest, the results were delayed to review whether defending champion Takeru Kobayashi had a "Roman method incident" (also known as a "reversal of fortune") in the final seconds of the competition. Such an incident results in the disqualification of the competitor under the rules of the IFOCE. The judges ruled in Kobayashi's favor; a disqualification would have given second place to Patrick Bertoletti. A similar incident occurred during Kobayashi's 2002 title defense when he consumed over fifty hot dogs  in a victory over Eric "Badlands" Booker.






       Kobayashi did not compete in the contest in 2010 or 2011 due to his refusal to sign an exclusive contract with the event's organizers. In 2010, Kobayashi was arrested after he walked up onto the stage after spectators began chanting "Let him eat". On July 4, 2011, he competed on the rooftop of a Manhattan bar, 230 Fifth, for the duration of the Coney Island contest. Two judges observed Kobayashi while the live broadcast of the event played next to him on a large television screen. Kobayashi finished 69 hot dogs, one more than the recognized world record and seven more than Chestnut's winning total in the 2011 contest. "I want to remain free to compete in the events that I want to compete in," Kobayashi said. "Today was a great success." Informed of the number, Major League Eating president George Shea snapped, “The champion of the world is crowned in Coney Island. Always has been, always will be. He put a tin crown on his head and called himself king.”   However, the sports website Deadspin deemed Kobayashi's solo appearance "an improbably perfect "up yours" to the Nathan's hot dog eating contest."






    Other


       The competition draws many spectators and worldwide press coverage. In 2007, an estimated 50,000 came out to witness the event.
       In June 2004 a three-story-high "Hot Dog Eating Wall of Fame" was erected at the site of the annual contest. The wall lists past records going back to 1984 and has a digital clock, which counts down the minutes until the next contest.
       From 1997 to 2006, a Japanese competitor held the belt in every year but 1999. In 2000, the first, second and third places were all taken by Japanese contestants.

    Independence Day 2010 arrest

       Kobayashi was arrested on July 4, 2010, during the Nathan's International Hot Dog Eating Contest when he exited the police-barricaded spectator pen and entered the stage after the eating had ended. Although he was initially welcomed by co-host George Shea, security and New York City Police Department officers quickly ushered him offstage as he resisted vehemently, hanging on to the barricades and fences before being taken into custody. Though some witnesses report that Kobayashi was attempting to






    congratulate Chestnut's win, co-host and Major League Eating President Richard Shea, however stated that "[Kobayashi] tried to jump on stage during the awards ceremony to disrupt it."  He was charged with resisting arrest, trespassing and obstructing governmental administration.  Kobayashi was not participating due to a contract dispute as he refused to sign a contract with Major League Eating that would have barred him from participating in events not sanctioned by the League. In his website, on the contract which he didn't sign said that he cannot eat fast on TV show and competition without their permission. He thought he was refused from all the events.

    Tactics and training

       Each contestant has his or her own eating method. Takeru Kobayashi pioneered the "Solomon Method" at his first competition in 2001. The method is to break each hot dog in half, eat the two halves at once, then eat the bun. The idea of eating the hot dogs and buns separately was first demonstrated by Kazutoyo Arai and is sometimes called "Tokyo Style" or "Japanesing". One hand is often used for dunking the buns, and the other is used for eating the hot dog.






       "Dunking" is the most promenent method used today. Because buns absorb water, many contestants dunk their hot dogs (or just the buns) in water and squeeze them to make them easier to swallow, and slide down the throat more efficiently.
       Other methods used include the "Carlene Pop," where the competitor jumps up and down while eating, to force the food down to the stomach. "Buns & Roses" is a similar trick, but the eater sways from side to side instead.  "Juliet-ing" is a cheating method in which played simply throw the HDBs over their shoulders.
       Contestants train and prepare for the event in different ways. Some fast, others prefer liquid-only diets before the event. Takeru Kobayashi meditates, drinks water and eats cabbage, then fasts before the event. Kevin Lipsitz formerly trained by having eating races with his dogs, but animal rights advocates convinced him to stop. Several contestants, such as Ed Jarvis, aim to be "hungry, but not too hungry" and have a light breakfast the morning of the event.