Saturday, August 17, 2013


  Water is the element that most characterises Venice and it is no coincidence that the most famous and spectacular festivity in the city takes place on the waters of the Grand Canal. The spectacular eventstarts with a magnificent historical procession consisting of splendid,elaborately carved boats complete with hundreds od figures in gorgeous brocadecostumes.
    Even now the Regata Storica is one of the most spectacular, picturesque and moving events of Venetian life, capable of both charming the tourists and exciting the locals.
   A historical procession commemorates the welcome given to Caterina Cornaro, wife of the King of Cyprus, in 1489 after she renounced her throne in favour of Venice. It is a procession of 16th century style boats, with the famous Bucintoro, the boat representing the Serenissima, at its head.
    Then comes the competition. The spectators participate with gusto and shouts of encouragement during the sporting events.


A City on Water    The first description of the inhabitants on the lagoon comes from the 6th century AD and was written by the Roman Cassiodoro:
   "It appears as though you slide across fields with your boats because from afar you cannot discern the canals from the sandbanks... and whilst in other cities you tether animals to the front of the house, you, with your houses of wicker and reed, tether your boats".
   Even in those days, the city's relationship with water was clear. It is a relationship that has distinguished Venice and her inhabitants ever since.
Since the beginning of its history, Venice has lived alongside water and transformed it into its major sources of income: salt extraction, fishing and river and maritime commercial traffic.
   Over the centuries the city gradually extended its control of the seas and the ensuing commerce. In fact, the Adriatic was known as the Gulf of Venice.

   The city's development brought with it a transformation in the natural environment: in order to grow, the city needed to make living space out of the water, orchards, fens, mud and sandbanks. More and more land was reclaimed thanks to millions of poles driven into the mud, which then became land to build on. An entire forest of upturned trees lies at the base of the city.
  The Venetians have always placed the utmost importance on water and its regulation: for centuries they have controlled the flow of rivers, even diverting their outlets to prevent the slow but progressive flooding of the lagoon. Over the centuries, the flow of the Brenta, Dese, Sile and Piave rivers has undergone substantial diversions to allow Venice and its lagoon to survive.
Great attention was given to providing drinking water and its use was regulated by specially formed magistrates.

A City of Rowers    Venice was, and to an extent still is, a city whose principal means of communication consisted of canals and the traffic was on water.
   Rowing everywhere is a centuries-old form of transport and continues to survive to this day. Centuries ago, rowing was the ideal training for mariners working for the Venetian military and civil fleet and was indispensable for all Venetians.
   All the patrician palaces had an entrance opening onto the street and another more important and magnificent one opening onto the canal. This is where gondolas were moored, ready to take their masters and guests around the city.

Venetian-style Rowing    As they travelled by boat or ship, Venetians became able seamen and rowers, and were experts in understanding winds, currents and tides.
The surrounding environment forged and conditioned the methods of navigation and lagoon rowing.
   The shallow seabed, the winding canals and the presence of sandbanks called for flat-bottomed boats without a keel. The need for maximum visibility to locate the most navigable routes led to stand-up rowing, while the need for using just one oar through the narrow city canals saw the creation of asymmetric boats that enabled this kind of rowing. The need to freely move the oar in order to push down on the shallow seabed or to slip down narrow canals led to the creation of an open rowlock, the forcola. For the same reasons, the rudder was also abandoned and substituted by the oar.

Gondoliers    Before becoming a category exclusively dedicated to tourism, the gondoliers were the spirit of the city, acting as oar-wielding chauffeurs.
   They either worked for a patrician family or were employed in public service and were available to anyone who wanted to reach any part of the city or lagoon.
This category, which was to become the very symbol of the city, for centuries constituted the heart of the spectacular regattas that were increasingly being organised in the city.

Birth of the Regatta    The regata or rowing race is the most specifically Venetian of local competitive events and has always exerted considerable appeal for both Venetians and visitors.
The earliest historical evidence relates the races to the celebrations surrounding the festival of the Marys and date from the second half of the 13th Century. However, it is probable that similar events were already popular: Venice was essentially a seafaring city and ready reserves of expert oarsmen were a prime necessity.

   The etymology of the term regata is uncertain. Some trace it to the word riga (line), others to the verb aurigare (to compete in a race); and others again to ramigium (rowing); in any case, the Venetian term "regata" entered the main European languages to denote a competitive event raced in boats.
   During the Renaissance regate were organized mainly by the Compagnie della Calza (associations of young noblemen) but from the mid-16th Century, the Venetian government appointed specific noblemen - called direttori di regata - to arrange and supervise the races.

The Competition    A typical regatta has always comprised various races using different kinds of boats and on the occasion of a regatta, the Lagoon in front of St. Mark's and the Grand Canal is always teeming with decorated craft of all kinds, full of passionately keen spectators.
To clear the course of the race and to keep order, the regatta used to be preceded by a fleet of bissone, typical long boats containing noblemen standing in the bows and armed with bows. Their job was to pelt the more unruly of the spectators with terracotta shot. Now the bissone still head the procession before the races, but they no longer perform a disciplinary function.

   The Regata Storica as we know it now, with its commemorative cortege acting as a prelude to the competitions, was conceived at the end of the 19th century for the 3rd Biennale d'Arte as a way of offering another tourist attraction.

  Famous Regattas    Regate were more common in the past than now and were of two main types: challenge events between boatmen or gondoliers and regate grandi, organized as part of the celebrations for some religious or civic occasion.
   For centuries, the regata was also a customary way of marking the accession of a new Doge and Dogaressa, the appointment of important public officials such as the Procuratori di San Marco and of welcoming distinguished visitors to the Serenissima Republic. Dignitaries honoured in this way included Beatrice d'Este in 1493, Anna de Foix, Queen of Hungary in 1502, Henry III of France in 1574, Frederick IX of Denmark in 1709 and the Crown Prince and Princess of Russia in 1782.

   Not infrequently they were also organized and financed by foreign princes, a famous example being the regata of 1686, arranged at the wish of Duke Ernest August of Brunswick, a general who had fought bravely in the service of the Serenissima.

The Historical Procession    This procession is a re-evocation of the welcome given to Caterina Cornaro, wife of the King of Cyprus, in 1489 after she renounced her throne in favour of Venice.It is a procession of 16th century style boats, with the famous Bucintoro, the boat representing the Serenissima, at its head.
   This is followed by dozens of multi-coloured boats with gondoliers in period costume carrying the Doge and his wife, along with Caterina Cornaro, and the highest dignitaries from the Venetian Magistracy, faithfully reconstructing an event from the glorious past of the Marine Republic's, one of the most powerful and influential in the Mediterranean.

The Public Spectacle

    Crowded along the banks, or in the floating stands, or even better in one of the boats moored along the Canal, the spectators participate with gusto and shouts of encouragement during the sporting events.
   As the multi-coloured boats speed past thousands of spectators, crowded along the banks, or in the floating stands, or even better in one of the boats moored along the Canal, an incessant babble acts as the soundtrack to the competition, which has continued for a thousand years and is a perpetual reminder of Venice's close relationship with water, the element showing continuity between the past, present and future of the lagoon city.

Crucial Points
 The traditional reference points of the regatta are:

- the spagheto or cordin, the rope stretched across the starting point in front of the Public Gardens.
- the paleto, a pole driven into the centre of the Grand Canal in front of the Church of Sant'Andrea della Zirada, around which the boats must tum before going back up the course (the first boats round the paleto are traditionally those which take the pennants awarded to the winners).

- the machina, a construction erected on a richly carved, painted and gilded wooden raft, which marks the finish of the race and on which the prize-giving ceremonies are held.


The Gondola    The Venetian boat par excellence, whose origin remains a mystery in spite of extensive research into the subject.
   Once, gondolas were extravagantly decorated by their wealthy and titled owners, whose fondness for ostentation was curbed by a sumptuary edict dictating that henceforth they should all be painted black.
   The rules for construction are extremely strict: the right side must be 24 millimetres narrower than the left (this assymetry is know as lai); the boat must measure 10.75 metres in length and have an internal breadth of 1.38 metres. The gondola is used exclusively for ferrying persons and for boat races. Eight different types of wood are used in its construction and it is made up of over 280 different parts. The only parts in metal are the characteristic "ferro" of the prow and the "risso" of the stern.

   The "ferro" characterises the gondola's prow and guarantees the boat's longitudinal stability, acting as a counterbalance to the gondolier's weight.
   Popular tradition has it that the anterior "pettini" represent the six neighbourhoods of the city and the posterior one represents the island of Giudecca; the double "S" curve is the Grand Canal and the lunette, positioned under a stylised doge's cap, is Rialto Bridge.

Gondolino    Created and used exclusively for the Historical Regatta, the gondolino first raced in 1825. It was designed specifically to make the Regatta more competitive and exciting.
It is lighter and swifter than the gondola on which it is modelled. The current version measures 10.5 metres from end to end, whilst its bottom is 0.65 metres wide.

Caorlina    Sixteen-century prints show that this working boat has faithfully preserved all its traditional features.
   Although used for fishing (the nets marking out fishing grounds are spread with caorline da seragia), the boat serves mainly for trasporting choice fruit and vegetables from the islands to the city market.
   Its distinguishing feature lies the identical shape of the bow and stern, which are elongated and have no boom. The name of the boat suggests that it originally came from Caorle.

Mascareta    A lighter version of the sandolo, used for fishing, racing and boating excursions on the lagoon.
   Its length (6-8 metres)varies according to the number of oarsmen (1-4 oars).
   It appears to have been named after the masked prostitutes who often used this type of craft.

Pupparin    A speedy vessel once used for maritime surveillance or kept by members of the aristocracy as a town boat (barca da casada).
   The poppa (stern) from which the vessel takes its name is expecially prominent.
Rowed with up to four oars, it varies in length from 9 to 10 meters.
   The slender, pointed hull and boldly pronunced bow make the pupparin a refined and elegant craft.

The Forcola    This is the rowlock on which the oar rests.
   Its characteristic form, the result of centuries of experimentation, gives it the appearance of a sculpture rather than a utensil.
   Nothing is left to chance: each curve, each shape, each corner has a precise function. For example, the gondolier uses at least eight different points of the forcola.
Each boat uses a specific forcola for the prow and another for the stern, as they have different measurements.

The Oar    It has a flat blade and is not fixed to the forcola so that it can be removed quickly when rowing along the narrow city canals.
   It varies in length depending on the type of boat.
   The oar is also used as a rudder in Venetian-style rowing and acts as a keel for the flat-bottomed boat.


   Candy corn is many things. It’s one of the most well known symbols of Halloween and also a best selling candy every year. Despite its large sales and popularity, it’s often out shined by other candies, especially chocolates.
   Enough of that! Here, candy corn is in the spotlight. Learn its history and some fun facts!

The Beginning
   The corn looking tri-colored confection was invented in the 1880s by George Renninger of the Wunderlee Candy Company which was based in Philadelphia. When first invented, the candy was made by hand and had a slightly more difficult process than it does today.
   It was not available all year long like it is today. Instead, it was made for only 8 months out of the year and was available seasonally – in the fall when farmers harvested their real corn, and of course, around Halloween.
   When first sold to customers, the corn lookalike was quite popular among farmers as it actually resembles a real piece of corn. The novelty looking candy later became a hit with kids and other adults.

Small change, Sweet Success

   Because the Wunderlee Candy Company was rather small and the candy corn was a handmade confection, they were not capable of mass-producing it. Around 1900, the Goelitz Candy Company began producing the tri-colored treat and this launched its popularity into new territory.
   Back then, colorful treats were a rarity so customers of all ages were impressed by the fact that one candy had 3 colors in it! They went bananas for it, and candy corn became a best-selling confection.
   In 1976, the Goelitz Candy Company released Jelly Belly Jelly Beans and became an even bigger success than before. They later became the Jelly Belly Jelly Bean company and produced mainly jelly beans and still do today. Although they still produce candy corn year-round, they are not the biggest producer or seller of the confection.

Brach’s Rocks!

   Brach’s Palace of Sweets, a candy store and factory in Chicago, Illinois opened in 1904, but it wasn’t until 1948 that they began selling candy corn around Halloween time. This was perhaps the companies greatest decision ever. They quickly became the top candy seller in America and now produce several varieties of the tri-colored candy including original, caramel apple and caramel. Although they first became popular for their caramels, they now are the biggest candy corn seller in the U.S.

Did You Know?ational Candy Corn Day is on October 30th

  •  Each year, over 35 million pounds of candy corn are produced. This equals about 9 billion pieces!
  •  Although candy corn is sold year-round in most places, 80% of it is sold during September and October.
  • If every piece of candy corn made each year was laid end to end, it could circle the moon 4 times!

  •  Candy corn is traditionally red, orange and white, but there are also brown, orange and white versions (Indian corn made with cocoa) as well as Christmas, Valentine and Easter colors.
  • Candy corn is typically made with corn syrup, coloring, binding agents and sugar. Sometimes other flavors and sweeteners such as honey are used as well.
  •  Pumpkin Spice and Pumpkin Pie flavored candy corn is often available in the Autumn. Various companies produce these varieties and they are typically found anywhere Halloween candy is sold. They can for sure be found at Target and Walmart.

Some gourmet flavors and colors of candy corn

  •  The Jones Soda company makes a Candy Corn flavored soda available for Halloween only.


   It's unbelievable at the number of names witches are called from different countries and at different centuries in our history. Plus let me not forget the types of "witchcraft" each one may practice compared to another one. Good or bad witch, male or female and even what kind of heritage you come from. So here's a list of the different ones, all in alphabetical order.

  • Alexandrian- This tradition was begun in the 1960's by Alex Sanders. Alex Sanders lived in England.  He used what are known to be slightly changed Gardnarian traditions and calls himself the "King of Witches." Covens involve both men and women.
  • British Traditional-This is, according to Silver RavenWolf a "mix of Celtic and Gardnarian beliefs." Covens involve both men and women. One can study a course and receive a degree in British Traditional Witchcraft.
  • Celtic Wicca-Celtic Wicca focuses mainly on Celtic and Druidic gods and goddesses (along with a few other Anglo-Saxon pantheon). The rituals are formed after Gardenerian traditions with a stronger emphasis on nature. Celtic Wicca also put much emphasis on working with elementals and nature spirits such as fairies and gnomes. Gods and Goddesses are usually called "The Ancient Ones."
  • Caledonil-This was once know as the Hecatina Tradition. Traditional Scottish Witchcraft.

  • Ceremonial Witchcraft- This tradition is very exacting in its ritual. All rituals are usually followed by the book, to the letter and with much ceremony. Little emphasis is put on nature. This tradition may incorporate some Egyptian magic. Quabbalistic magic is often used in ceremonial witchcraft
  • Dianic-Dianic can incorporate nearly any magical traditions, but emphasis is placed on the Goddess only with little or no mention of the God. Known as the "feminist" types of witchcraft .
  • Druidic- Neo-Druids are polytheistic worshipers of Mother Earth. Very little is known today about ancient Druidism and there are many gaps in the writings that have been found. Modern Druids practice their religion in areas where nature has been preserved-usually wooded areas. Druidic rituals often employ sacrifices to the Mother Goddess. These sacrifices often include grain, sometimes meat. These ritual sacrifices are often accompanied by a verse not unlike the following. "Earth Mother, giver of life we return to you a measure of the bounty you have provided, may you be enriched and your wild things be preserved."
  • Eclectic-An eclectic witch mixes many different traditions together to suit their tastes and will not follow any one particular tradition. Whatever seems to work best for them is what is used, regardless of which magical practice it comes from. This one of the most popular types of witches found today.

  • Gardnerian- Gardnerian witchcraft was begun in England and is Wiccan in nature. It was formed by Gerald Gardner in the 1950's. Gerald Gardner was the first to publicize witchcraft in an effort to preserve the "old ways."
  • Hereditary Witch-A heraditary witch is a witch who is born into a witch family and brought up learning about witchcraft. Many witches claim to be hereditary witches when in fact, they are not. You must be brought up in a family of witches to be a hereditary witch.
  • Kitchen Witch-A kitchen witch is one who practices magic having to deal with the home and practical life. Kitchen witches use many spells involving cooking, herbs, and creating magic through crafts. A kitchen witch is very much like a hedge witch.
  • Pictish-Pictish witchcraft is nature-based with little emphasis on religion, Gods, or Goddesses. It is much like Celtic witchcraft, only the traditions are Scottish.  Pictish witches perform solitary and rarely, if ever work in groups or covens.

  • Pow-Wow-This is a rare term when referring to witchcraft. This tradition is based on old German magic. Today, it is considered a system of faith healing and can be applied to most any religion.
  • Seax-Wicca-This tradition was begun in 1973 by Raymond Buckland. Buckland and works on Saxon principles of religion and magic.
  • Shaman-It is arguable as to whether shamanism is or is not witchcraft. It is included because shamanism is a form of Paganism. Shamanism puts no emphasis on religion or on pantheon. Shamans work completely with nature: rocks, trees, animals, rivers, etc. Shamans know the Earth and their bodies and minds well and train many long years to become adept at astral travel and healing.
  • Solitary-Solitary witches can be practitioners of nearly any magical system. A solitary works alone and does not join a group or coven. Often, solitaries choose to mix different systems, much like an eclectic witch. Solitaries can also form their own religious beliefs as they are not bound by the rules of a coven.

  • Strega-This type of witchcraft is said to have been started by a woman named Aradia in Italy in 1353. Aradia is known in some traditions as the "Goddess of Witches."
  • Teutonic-A Nordic tradition of witchcraft that includes beliefs and practices from many cultures including Swedish, Dutch, and Icelandic.
  • Wicca-Probably the most popular form of witchcraft. Wicca is highly religious in nature and has a good balance between religion/ceremonial magic and nature. Wiccans believe in a God and Goddess who are equal in all things, although some may lean more toward the Dianic form of Wicca, worshipping only the Goddess or lowering the God to an "assistant" status. Wiccans commonly form covens and rarely work alone.