Today is a special day around the world as Christians prepare for Ash Wednesday and Lent. Fastnacht is the time of release, of indulgence, the opposite of Lent, when strict behaviour and abstinence are observed until Easter. It is the day when the world eats pancakes — I ate soup.
My memories of Fastnacht are sharply personal. It was during Fastnacht that I met my first witch!
And she wasn’t alone …
I wrote an essay in which I described my encounter with this witch. Below is an excerpt of that encounter.
“… an old woman with a hunched back, big nose, wide grin and conspiring wink. She leans on a walking stick, carries a leather pouch and offers a shot glass in a toast. Asters and daisies grow about her feet; young black spruce grow behind her. A crow sits on her shoulders, offsetting the orange full moon and few clouds in the twilight sky.
“The woman, of course, is a witch. … I remember this witch and a hundred more like her, marching one warm afternoon down a German street with their traditional, home-made white blouses, brown skirts, red headkerchiefs and hand-carved wooden masks covering their faces. Most carried hazel brooms with twig wisps; some carried whips. Between them rolled horse-drawn wagons with wooden cages beneath that could fit a couple dozen spectators pulled from the crowd and a dozen in gallows on top. We had noisemakers and clay badges to protect us from the grasping witches. I remember quite vividly one reaching for me. It took my parents to shoo her away, for my noisemaker and badge were not doing the trick. For a seven-year-old child quite aware of the stories of Hansel and Gretel and himself in the land where these stories were set, this Witch Parade was an awesome and scary experience.”
I have many hobbies, among which is oil painting.
That memory of the Witch Parade never left me and has always been an igniter of my imagination and a source of inspiration. So, I let my imagination carry me as I played with my memory, and I composed the following oil painting.
This painting was extremely fun to create as I spend considerable time playing with light, shadow, blends and three-dimensions in it. Notice that it contains two styles of painting: realistic foreground (the witch) and impressionistic background (the hill and trees to the left).
The above photograph shows an intermediate state of the painting. Several features were touched since, particularly the pond which has since been darkened to emphasize the night and the “suspense” of the scene.
The inspiration for the painting came from the label on a bottle of Schnapps of all things. This bottle of Schnapps is full of elements of sorcery and fire folklore. I describe it and its symbolism in detail in the essay I mentioned above. The following image is a photograph of it.
The bottle’s true dimensions are: 4×1.5×0.75 inches.
I completed the painting last November.
Play is what we do when we enjoy ourselves and others. It inspires our imagination, revitalizes our minds and strengthens our bodies. It sparks curiosity and creativity, and focuses our senses. And when it becomes public, it moves those who witness it.
But it also shapes and constructs our practical wisdom, so contributing to our ever learning and maturing nature.
Painting and writing are two of my favourite hobbies, which is why I devoted a blog to them. What hobbies inspire you to grow?