Sunday, October 31, 2010

Hallowe'en Saints: Saint George

Saint George was a soldier in the Roman army. Diocletian[1] ordered that all Christian soldiers be arrested if they would not sacrifice to the pagan gods. George was the most senior Christian to refuse. Diocletian offered him land, money and slaves, to sacrifice, but George refused. As those of you who have followed this series might expect, next came torture (which involved a wheel of swords) and finally beheading.

But before all that, he killed a dragon!

St George
15th Century Icon

Although tempted by the wheel of swords, for this costume, I suggest tradition. Have a friend dress up as Godzilla[2] and hassle the young ladies. Then arrive in armour, with a white surcoat with red cross, and "slay" the dragon with a collapsible lance.

As today is Hallowe'en, this brings an end to this series of brief descriptions of saints and my thoughts on how to costume as them.

[1] Him again!
[2] Or Mechagodzilla

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Hallowe'en Saints: Saint Andrew

Saint Andrew was the brother of Saint Peter. Like Peter he was a fisherman. Like peter he was a disciple of Jesus. Like Peter he was the first bishop of a church, in this case in Byzantium (later Constantinople, later Istanbul). Like Peter he was martyred by crucifixion, and like Peter he said he wasn't worthy of being crucified in the same way as Christ. In Andrew's case, rather than inverting him, they turned the cross through 45 degrees to form the Saltire.

Saint Andrew

For a costume, I suggest carrying a large diagonal cross.

Hallowe'en Saints: Saint Olaf

Olaf[1] was a Norwegian lord. After joining Cnut[2] in his conquest of England, Olaf returned home and declared himself king. Sadly not everyone agreed, and most of his reign was disrupted by rebellions and civil war. Nevertheless he continued to spread Christianity throughout Norway. Eventually he was killed in battle against his former ally, and fellow Christian, Cnut. In death, his followers emphasised the evangelical work, and deemphasised the whole viking-theft-of-entire-kingdoms part of his career, to the extent that as patron saint he was able to do what he was unable to do in life - unify Norway.

Fall of Olaf II, Battle of Stiklestad
Nidaros Cathedral

Olaf was a Norse warlord. As such there's two likely costumes; firstly we can go as strictly historical as we can. Or of course, there's horned helmet, fur trimmed leather jerkin open to the waist, beard, braids and a dragonship. Also a halo.

[1] Olaf has previously appeared on Night of the Hats in this post.
[2] Canute in English. Canute continues to be ignored in popular history. A pretty good Time Team special about Vikings was on recently, but the timeline went something like Danish Great Army (860s), Alfred the Great and the Danelaw (870-890s), Danish York (900s)... Harald Hardrada (1066)! "Are you going to completely ignore Canute, Tony?" I asked the TV. He just grinned and told us that Viking meant Pirate. I may need to post on Canute sometime.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Hallowe'en Saints: Saint Nicholas

Saint Nicholas performed so many miracles that he is sometimes called Nicholas the wonderworker. As an example, during famine, a villainous butcher lured 3 small boys to his house, where he slaughtered and butchered them, intending to pass them off as ham. Nicholas, in the area to try and relieve the situation with the aid of the grace of god, saw through this, brought the butcher to justice and then resurrected the boys.

His most famous intervention was for a poor man and his three virtuous daughters. Having no money for dowries, the daughters would remain unmarried, and, with no means of support, probably have to turn to prostitution. Nicholas, rather than shaming the family with charity slipped a purse of gold down the chimney, where the daughters were drying their stockings.

Saint Nicholas should not be confused with Old Nick.

Saint Nicholas
Greenwich Workshop Fine Art

Saint Nicholas, like Saint Elmo, has a theme song.

Clearly white beard, red clothes, and a big sack full of food is the costume indicated here. And for God's sake don't eat the ham!

Hallowe'en Saints: Saint Valentine

Here's what we know about Saint Valentine:

He was a Christian in Rome in the 3rd Century AD, was martyred and his name was revered by the survivors.

For a costume I suggest an arrow through a heart. Ox heart for preference but a pig's heart would be fine.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Hallowe'en Saints: Saint Liberatus

Saint Liberatus was a Catholic monk in the Vandal kingdom of Africa[1]. Huneric, the Vandal king, invited seven monks to Carthage and offered them gifts if they would endorse Arianism. They refused. He had them chained up and thrown into a dungeon. This attracted the attention of Catholics in Africa and the monks received many visitors. Huneric was unamused by thus and ordered them to be put in an old ship and burnt. The monks cheerfully walked down to the shore, where the boat refused to catch fire. Annoyed, frustrated, and not taking the hint, Huneric ordered the monks' heads bashed in with oars. Then their bodies were thrown in the sea, but the sea refused to keep them, and washed them ashore, where their followers found them and buried them.

Can't find an image of Liberatus, but apparently this is a picture of Huneric.

I guess this costume is all about the head injury. I should probably have tried to find a saint with better costuming possibilities, but I'm still two behind and didn't want to waste the research.

[1] The Vandals, a Germanic people[2], had invaded and conquered the Roman Province of Africa in 429 and had their Capital at Carthage. The Vandals were Christians, but not Catholics; they subscribed to the heresy of Arius[3].
[2] I remember reading somewhere, although I now can't find it, that the Vandals liked to paint things black; the Goths, a related people, preferred blues and greens.
[3] It's to do with the nature of the Trinity.

Hallowe'en Saints: Saint Agatha

Amongst other things, Saint Agatha is patron saints of martyrs[1] so if you don't like gruesome things look away now.

Agatha lived in Sicily in the 3rd century AD. She was a Christian who had dedicated her virginity to God. Unfortunately the Roman Prefect Quintianus pursued her; when she rejected him, he persecuted her for her Christianity expecting her to give in when threatened. When she didn't, he imprisoned her in a brothel for a month. After this had no effect he then had her tortured. Amongst the tortures her breasts were cut off[2]. St Peter healed her, but eventually she died.

St Agatha
Francisco de Zurbaran

Amongst other things, Saint Agatha is patron saint of wet nurses, which as I've said before is not a perfect fit. For a Saint Agatha costume I can only suggest recreating the common but disturbing image of her carrying her breasts on a tray. That's definitely scary enough for Hallowe'en.

[1] If I weren't 3 and a half days behind I'd note that both traditionally and officially, the manner of death is one of the details taken into account when someone is canonized, which is why martyrs feature prominently, but I should probably spend the time looking up another saint.
[2] This method of seduction is not endorsed by Night of the Hats.

Mean Lasagne

Traditionally in Italian cooking, Pasta is cheap and meat is expensive. This is why the pasta course comes before the meat course, so that you are filled up on stodge and a smaller portion of meat will still be satisfactory. For economical cooking we want to maximise the pasta:sauce ratio; obviously for good cooking, at some point we reach the point of diminishing returns.

Anyway last night I made a four layer lasagna, or in other words there was twice as much pasta as I used to use, but no more meat sauce (there was more cheese sauce, but I always used to run out until I started to take lasagna seriously).

I have previously discussed lasagna here which has a recipe that is a sibling to the one I used yesterday, and my thinking on lasagna two and a half years ago.

Hallowe'en Saints: Saint Francis

Here are some things that Saint Francis of Assisi did.

As a young man he was a soldier, and was taken prisoner. Later he fell ill, and, at the end of these he had a strange vision. he began to avoid feasting and hunting, and, when asked if he would marry answered "Yes - to My Lady Poverty[1]".

He went on pilgrimage, renounced his father's money and restored several churches.

He took Matthew 10:9-10 literally.

He was never ordained as a priest, so he and his followers formed the Friars Minor, known as the Franciscans for obvious reasons. Clare of Assisi was inspired by him and together formed the Order of Poor ladies, known as the Poor Clares (obvious reasons).

Saint Francis went to Egypt where he debated with Muslim scholars before the Sultan[2]. Impressed by him, the Sultan allowed him to preach. Later, after the fall of the Crusader States, it was the Franciscans who the Muslim rulers allowed to remain as custodians of Christian sites, thanks to St Francis.

Francis handed over control of the order to Pietro, but Pietro died soon afterwards. Then miracles started occurring at Pietro's tomb, causing great disturbance to the order. Francis prayed that Pietro would obey in death as in life and the miracles stopped.

He wrote poetry, as well as the rules of his order, in the Umbrian dialect of Italian rather than Latin, believing that common people should be able to understand; as such he is considered the first Italian Poet.

The first thing most people remember about Saint Francis:

He preached to some birds.

The costume: tonsure, halo, brown robe and lots of birds.

[1] I paraphrase. "To a fairer bride than you have ever seen" reminiscent to me of Saint Catherine.
[2] In fact he challenged them to ordeal by fire.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Hallowe'en Saints:Saint Gallus

It's probably time to take a break from martyrdom and mutilation. So my suggestion for today (or yesterday as I'm a day behind) is Saint Gallus. A 6th-7th century Irish missionary, he settled in what is now South West Germany. Saint Gallus is the patron saint of poultry, as he cast out a demon, and it ran around like a black chicken.

Saint Gallus is better known for another story. He and his companions were camping in the woods when a bear turned up. Unafraid, Saint Gallus prayed, or possibly just commanded the bear, and it went and collected firewood for them.

Saint Gallus, as depicted on the arms of the Swiss town of Kriens

The best costumes would probably not be animal welfare friendly. So I suggest robe, walking staff, halo, a stuffed black chicken on a string, and a companion dressed as a bear. In the event of war with France they can use the disguise to escape over the Spanish border[1].

[1] See The Post Captain by Patrick O'Brian

Friday, October 22, 2010

Hallowe'en Saints: Saint Catherine

Saint Catherine was the daughter of the pagan governor of Alexandria. She declared that she would only marry someone who surpassed her in beauty, intelligence, wealth and status[1]. It turned out that someone was Christ.

She went to the Roman Emperor[2] to ask him to stop persecuting Christians. Although she failed, she did convert many of the philosophers she debated with, and also the Empress. Unamused, the Emperor had her condemned to be broken on the wheel[3]. However, when she touched it, the wheel itself broke, so she was actually beheaded. An angel turned up, but rather than healing her for more torture as they seemed to have a habit of doing, it took her body to Mount Sinai.

Saint Catherine

Saint Catherine has a sword in the picture as she was one of the voices in Joan of Arc's head, and directed Joan to a shrine of Saint Catherine where she dug up the sword of Charles Martel. She gets a broken wheel for obvious reasons. An alternative would be to dress up "headless". Halo optional.

[1] This kind of thing never ends well.
[2] Probably our friend Diocletian or his co-emperor Maximian
[3] Hence Catherine Wheel.

Hallowe'en Saints: Saint Peter

Saint Peter was the first bishop of Rome[1]. As such he's considered the founder of the papacy, and, as one of the 12 apostles, the major link in the apostlic succession for the Catholic church[2]. He's all over the gospels and Acts, and there are many other traditions about him. I, of course, am only going to talk about his martyrdom.

After the Great Fire of Rome, Nero blamed the Christians and celebrated his regnal anniversary with a great crucifiction of them, so Peter's death is dated to 13 October 64 AD. Apparently Peter said he wasn't worthy of being crucified in the same way as Christ, so the Romans crucified him upside down.

The Crucifiction of Saint Peter

So anyway, one symbol of Saint Peter, sometimes worn by people who wish to show their allegiance but don't believe that they're worthy of wearing a symbol of Christ, is an inverted cross. So for this costume, I reckon a nice, large, prominent inverted cross. It doesn't get any more Christian than that.

[1] Ignoring, as is traditional, Simon Magus.
[2] The Eastern and Oriental Orthodox churches also recognise apostlic succession, but also have more apostles to choose from amongst their founding bishops.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Hallowe'en Saints: Saint Guinefort

Saint Guinefort was a greyhound.

I'll pause there for a moment.

Okay, Guinefort was a greyhound. Left one day to babysit a child, the parents returned to see the room in chaos and blood on Guinefort. Thinking he had killed and eaten the child they slew Guinefort. Then they heard a sound, and under the cot was the child, unharmed, and a dead viper. Guinefort had saved the kid! Regretting what they'd done, they gave Guinefort an honourable burial. Then miracles started to happen!

I'm thinking a dog costume with a halo, and, as a prop, a snake.

Unsurprisingly the cult of Saint Guinefort has been officially suppressed by the Catholic church.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Hallowe'en Saints: Saint Wilgefortis

Saint Wilgefortis, also known as Saint Uncumber in England, was betrothed to a pagan king. However, being very pious, she had taken a vow of chastity, or maybe celibacy[1] so prayed to be made too hideous to marry. Her prayers were answered and she grew a beard. Rather than calling for his barber or maybe investing in a really thick veil, her father was so unamused by this turn of events that he had her crucified.

St Wilgefortis
St Etienne, Beauvais, Oise, France
16th Century

This costume basically creates itself - white dress, beard, optional crucifix. Her traditional depiction involves one missing shoe and a small fiddler at her feet.

I should probably note that the cult of St Wilgefortis has been officially suppressed by the Catholic church as it most likely came from trouser wearing Northern Europeans seeing an androgynous but bearded figure of Christ in a long robe and coming up with a story about a crucified bearded woman.

[1] The one being abstinence from sexual activity, the other being the state of being unmarried. One can be celibate, but not chaste, and even chaste, but not celibate.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Hallowe'en Saints: Saint Elmo

St Elmo, whose real name was Erasmus of Formiae, was a bishop in Italy. When Diocletian's persecutions began[1] he was called before a judge and beaten, then thrown into a pit of snakes and worms. Then boiling oil and sulphur were poured in. Erasmus, however, was as comfortable as if he was in his bath[2]. Then lightning struck and killed everyone around, but left Erasmus untouched.

Unfortunately for Erasmus, then came Diocletian's co-Emperor Maximian who, in an effort to stop Erasmus preaching, poured boiling pitch and molten lead in his mouth and fitted him with a read hot metal coat. Made to sacrifice to the Roman gods, the idols collapsed when he did so. Maximian, not willing to take a hint, put Erasmus in a barrel fitted with protruding spikes and rolled him down a hill. An angel healed him. More tortures followed. Later versions suggest that Erasmus finally died when his intestines were wound on a windlass, but it seems likely that this came after he had been given the symbol of a windlass as the patron saint of sailors.

The Martyrdom of St Erasmus
Nicholas Poussin

So, costume ideas. A "just struck by lightning" costume of sticking up hair, rags and soot would work. I like the idea of the barrel as well. Finally, of course, one could lug a windlass about, with intestines stuck to it.

This saint of course has a theme song.

[1] Diocletian is likely to appear several times in these descriptions. He wasn't keen on Christians, and, in turn, later Christians went out of their way to blacken his name in their accounts of martyrdoms.
[2] Although not as comfortable as if he were in the Baths of Diocletian, the largest and most luxurious baths in Rome.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

All Hallows Eve: Saint Sebastian

The Bishop of Arundel and Brighton has criticised hallowe'en for being meaningless and a waste of money. He suggests children should dress up as saints.

I approve this idea and intend to detail one saint a day between now and All Saints Day to educate, entertain and possibly inspire costume ideas. Let's stop all the dressing up as the risen dead and bloodthirsty figures and get back to some good old-fashioned saintly religion[1].

Saint Sebastian

Saint Sebastian was a christian and a soldier[2] for the Roman Emperor Diocletian. When several Christians were arrested for refusing to sacrifice to Roman gods[3] he encouraged them in prison and, indeed, converted several other officials and returned speech to a mute woman. Diocletian considered this a betrayal and had Sebastian tied to a stake and shot full of arrows ("as full as a hedgehog"). Sebastian of course didn't die. Later he harangued Diocletian who had Sebastian beaten to death and dumped in a privy.

Saint Sebastian
Master of Saint Lucy Legend
about 1475-1500
Oil on panel, 70 x 26.7 cm
Aalst, Gallery Robert Pintelon

I like this idea - lot's of arrows, blood etc. Great stuff!

[1] Did someone mention Samhain?
[2] He's held up by early theologians as an example of how to be a good Christian and a good soldier
[3] Assuming any of this is true this was probably something to do with the Imperial cult - in other words refusing to acknowledge the Emperor as the supreme power.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Physics Class - You're Doing It Wrong

Sean and Nathaniel of popular beat combo 3oh!3 met during a physics class at university. Me, I drew stupid cartoons during physics classes at university*. Clearly they were doing it wrong. Or I was.

(Link as embedding disabled)

On balance it depends on whether being licked by Katy Perry was on your list of things to do. If you're on the fence, you could always squint and pretend she's actually Zooey Deschanel.

What? If I ran into one of them in the freezer aisle of the co-op I'd probably get it wrong. Like physics class all over again.

*Don't worry - I have my magic axe!

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Booty Call

Dear The Midnight Beast,

Before I gave up on our amateur sitcom Parker, I came up with an idea called Girly Night, in which several relatively manly characters would have a classic girly sleepover[1]. Until now I still felt that, had I stretched the material to 15 minutes, it would have been my finest work.

Then I saw the video to your song "Booty Call". This is funnier, more interesting and much more scarily transgressive than mine would have ever been, in part thanks to keeping it to three and a half minutes. The world is clearly a better place for me having abandoned Parker. Gentlemen, I salute you

Yours Sincerely,

Neil W.

The Midnight Beast, Booty Call

In case you don't know, a booty call is a phone call to arrange a sexual liaison, usually late at night on an ad hoc, clandestine basis. A phone in the shape of a hamburger is not absolutely required.

Crossposted over at Parker.

[1] Strangely I never published the work I did on the blog, so here it is:

From Episode 2 (Working Title:Girly Night)

PARKER: ...But the worst thing about men is the way
they act like twats ALL THE TIME.

CHRIS T: Not ALL the time.

PARKER: ...ALL THE TIME! You walk down the street -
they come up to you with the most ridiculous and
obvious chat-up lines. Hang around in a bar - they
try to buy you a drink. Go to work - they ask you
questions about accountancy!

CHRIS T: To be fair, you are an accountant.

STAN: What I hate about men is that they smell. And
loom over you. And always have to be in control.

JIM: Poor things. They don't realise they're getting
more obsolete as every minute goes by. Pass the
Taboo, please Stan.

CHRIS T: Ladies, it's been a pleasure, but I've got a
baby to deliver. [Picks up baby basket and EXITS]

PARKER: ...Hang around on a street corner - they
offer you money for sexual acts...

[Enter CLAIRE and LARA]

PARKER: Back already?

CLAIRE: Yeah... how's your girly-night going?

JIM: Stan's done my hair!

I Read Stories: Magic for Beginners

I've been reading Kelly Link stories. Magic for Beginners is a story from a fictional television show called The Library. Jeremy, our protagonist,
has always wondered about what kind of television shows the characters in television shows watch. Television characters almost always have better haircuts, funnier friends, simpler attitudes toward sex. They marry magicians, win lotteries, have affairs with women who carry guns in their purses. Curious things happen to them on an hourly basis. Jeremy and I can forgive them their haircuts. We just want to ask them about their television shows.

On an hourly basis indeed.

In The Library, the characters watch a television show called The Library[1] set in the The Free People's World-Tree Library. In this show
The pirate-magicians used finger magic to turn Prince Wing into a porcelain teapot, and poured in boiling water, toasted the Eternally Postponed and Overdue Reign of the Forbidden Books, drained their tea in one gulp, belched, hurled their souvenir pirate mugs to the ground, and then shattered the teapot which had been Prince Wing into hundreds of pieces. Then the wicked pirate-magicians swept the pieces of both Prince Wing and the collectible mugs carelessly into a wooden cigar box, buried the box in the Angela Carter Memorial Park on the seventeenth floor of The World-Tree Library, and erected a statue of George Washington above it.

If I were some kind of TV boss I would hire Kelly Link and we would come up with some extraordinary scripts and then we would water it down and compromise to try and make it more mainstream, appealing and commercial and it would be a big mess (and still it might be some brilliant stuff on screen). So it's just as well I'm not. But I don't say that about making TV for the passage above. It's after the teapot is reassembled and turned back into Prince Wing looking "about a hundred years old, and as if there were still a few pieces missing," and kills Fox who has turned him back. And then "He sneezed (Prince Wing is allergic to swordplay)..."

Allergic to swordplay - I'm watching next week and every week after that[2].

Update: I've just noticed is that Magic for Beginners is available for free from Kelly Link, as part of the collection Magic for Beginners.

[1] This confusion is deliberate.

[2] The Library, as might be expected, has nothing so usual as a regular schedule, channel, or indeed actors.