Tuesday, 22 December 2015

A Scary Christmas Legend: Nuuttipukki from the North

Happy Holidays!

Since it is the season of Merry, I wish to share with you an old  and perhaps a bit sinister folklore story related to Christmas. Most of you are probably aware of the legend of Krampus, since an American horror/comedy movie came out this year with that same name. Really shortly said, Krampus is a mythological creature from the Alps, who is a sort of an Anti-Santa Claus. While Santa rewards nice people, Krampus punishes the bad ones. This post is about a whole other entity from the Nordic countries. This tradition spread from Sweden to Finland centuries ago, probably in the Middle Ages.

The spooky creature I am going to write about is called Nuuttipukki (it is translated as the New Year Buck in some sources), who is a horned, goat-like humanoid with an entourage of masked folk and he visits houses during the Saint Knut's Day. It used to be on January 7 but nowadays Saint Knut's Day is celebrated a week later. The tradition of Nuuttipukki still remained on the first week of the new year, though.

Nuuttipukki and his friends roam around the village and go from house to house insisting to have leftover foods and alcohol beverages after Christmas. It is bad luck not to yield to his requests, otherwise he might scare your animals, trash your garden and harass your servants (and he might still do that after food and drink, you never know with Nuuttipukki).

I wish to stress that this was not something that happened on the level of stories but in the reality too and it was not the master of the house who organized it. It was usually young men from another village who dressed as Nuuttipukki and his fellows and they might be quite drunk and mischievous. You could not be completely certain that food and booze would keep them happy.

This tradition was alive and kicking in Finland until the Second World War. Here is a photo from 1926. I believe the broom in this photo is part of the costume, to make this person more goat-like, so it is not a witch thing.
The blackmailing (that resembles trick or treating) was not the only reason for people to let this creature and his companions to the house. The other reason people were willing to let these rascals in was that Nuuttipukki was supposed to scare off the spirits of the dead before they became evil possessing spirits. It was believed that Christmas and its celebrations lured the spirits of dead relatives back to this world. This is the oldest reason for this carnivalistic celebration: the masks were to hide who was the one scaring the dead away so that the dead could not have their revenge on this person or persons.

Here is a photo of a mask of Nuuttipukki from the 19th century Finland. It is made out of sheepskin. This mask is from the collection of the National Museum of Finland and the photo was taken by Markku Haverinen.
Interestingly, Nuuttipukki is an older character than Santa Claus in Finland and the character of Santa resembled Nuuttipukki until the 1940's. Imagine Santa with a face like that! Even more, in Finnish language Santa is called "Joulupukki", so it is a very similar word with "Nuuttipukki".

As mentioned previously, it was believed that the dead Finns like the Christmas and in today's Finland it is still customary to commemorate the deceased relatives on Christmas. We take candles on the graves and on Christmas Eve the graveyards are astonishingly beautiful seas of candlelight. We also bring candles on the graveyards on All Saint's Day (about the same time as Halloween) to commemorate the dead and on 6th of December, which is our Independence Day, to commemorate the dead and especially those who died in the wars in which Finland fought to keep its independence. As you can see, the Finns are very respectable towards the dead.
Thanks for reading, I hope you found this interesting and entertaining!

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Creepy Reads Review: Addams Family - an Evilution

This volume has sat on my bookshelf for about two years and for some odd reason I have not featured it here on my blog. The Addams Family - an Evilution is a kind of an entertaining research on Chad Addams' creation, the Addams Family and how its characters evolved over time.
For me, the first Addams Family experience was the movies made in the 90's. After that, the old black and white TV-show. And finally I saw this book in an online shop and had the change to really read some of the original comics. This reversed order is quite understandable when regarding the fact that not the comics nor the old TV series were available at the period of time and the geographical place of my childhood. The point of this personal rambling is that the movies had shaped the way I saw the characters of Addams Family and I was surprised how different some of them are in the comics.

The Thing has changed completely from the comics and it is not even sure if the lurking little humanoid of the comics was the Thing. The old TV series made it to be a hand and I must say it is a delightful character. The Thing of the comics is seen on the photo of the front cover, it is spying the family from the window. In many of the comics there is this small creature lurking and watching, always outside of the family. In one single comic the Thing is something else than an observer: it is seen as a mere hand changing a vinyl on the family's gramophone. It is most likely this comic that inspired the character for the TV show.

The children too are relatively different and their way of interacting with each other has changed a lot in different media. In the comics Wednesday Addams is a sorrowful, quite timid child who is more like a sidekick for her brother in many pranks. This is the most astonishing difference for me and I must say I do think it is in a way improvement that Wednesday is much more livelier in the TV show and the character of the movies was a strong female role model for many a young girl.
"Well, don't come whining to me. Go tell him you'll poison him right back."
I believe though, that if Wednesday had been more livelier and stronger character in the comics, it would not have worked as well. The dynamics of the family members would have changed and it would have required alterations to the other characters too.

Morticia Addams of the movies is much more similar with the comics' Morticia. Her character in the TV series is much more warm and kooky. I do not think this is a bad thing, it is merely an observation. I love all the incarnations of Morticia.
What I really like about The Addams Family - an Evilution is that it has the comics in it but also a culture and literature analysis on the comics and it ties them to the social environment and the historical era they were created in. I can warmly recommend reading the old comics of Chad Addams and also reading this particular collection with cultural analysis on it too.

Friday, 27 November 2015

Picturesque city of Tampere

Lady Nancy from Retro Electric mentioned in a comment, that I should show more photos of the aesthetic sides of my hometown. I live in Tampere, Finland, the population is about 300 000 and it is the largest inland city in the Nordic countries (Finland, Sweden, Norway, and Iceland). Tampere is an old manufacturing town and sometimes people call it the Manchester of Finland.
These two photos are from the older area of the city center of Tampere.
The houses next door to my flat. Unfortunately the building I live in is not this photogenic.
The eastern orthodox church. I walk past it every time I go to the university. Slightly off-topic: I have made progress with my master's thesis and things are looking good!
I would probably kill for getting to live in that green house, preferably in the tower.
This red and white building is a theater. In the upper window you can just see the huge chandelier they have.
A couple of days ago we had our first snow. Alas, it did not stay long but it made everything much prettier. The city of Tampere is divided by a river. It is beautiful with a park area on both sides.

The final photo is from the old factory, which nowadays has a shopping center, bars and bistros, museums and other facilities for culture, and a cinema.
Thanks for reading, and I hope you liked the photos!

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Creepy Reads Review: Taxidermy Art by Robert Marbury

I bought a copy of Robert Marbury's Taxidermy Art - A Rogue's guide to the work, the culture, and how to do it yourself on my trip to New York last spring. I think I bought it from the museum shop on MoMA. Marbury is one of the founders and the director of the Minnesota Association of Rogue Taxidermy and an acknowledged artist.
As the title suggest, this book is non-fiction and for a person like me, who has little knowledge about how to actually make taxidermy or about its history, this was a good and informative opus. I also like the way Marbury writes, he does not became too repetitive even though the book consists of artist presentations and there are only so many ways to express certain basic information.

After the introduction to the book at hand there is also a short and compact introduction to the history of taxidermy and also to those historical persons who contributed to the development of taxidermy practices. I like that part very much, that the contemporary artists are contextualized like that.

Taxidermy Art introduces artists from all over the world, which is fantastic. Well, most of them are from the US, a few from the UK, and a couple from Europe and New Zeeland and Australia. But as the opus states the artists introduced in it are the most popular and well-known ones at the moment. It seems that taxidermy art is more popular in the English-speaking world and hence most artists are from those countries. The book presents 21 artists/artist duos.

Here are two of my favorite works and I would love to have one of these (or another of her works, her website is like a candy store for me!) myself: Still Birth (Green) and Still Birth (Blue) by Polly Morgan.
Lisa Black from New Zeeland makes gorgeous works in which animal and machine merge. I had not known about her works if I had not bought Taxidermy Art.
I can happily recommend this book. The photos are fantastic and in the end there are even instructions on how to make a taxidermy oneself. Though it is not like I am going to try them anytime soon.

Saturday, 7 November 2015

A tiny bit late Halloween post

It seems like many bloggers had a lovely Halloween and I too had a relatively good one. I've been buried under my studies (no change there) but I did manage to go to my student association's Halloween party. Since the common stereotype is that every day is Halloween for goths, it is not a big deal that I am a bit late with my post.

Me and my friend decided to dress with a mutual theme and we chose this old computer game Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines. Nobody recognized us, of course, but we had a really good time.  We dressed as the two personalities of a one vampire: Therese / Jeanette Voerman.
We bought some fangs from the local costume shop and the fangs were no good at all. They were cheap but unusable. The shop did not have more expensive ones, so we had to take what was available because we were horribly late with the whole costume idea. We decided it about 48 hours before the actual party. In the end we did not even use the fangs but that did not matter. :)
I used that metal nail file in the photo to make those fangs a bit smaller but they were still really impractically big. The glue thingy did not work or I did not have the patience to wait it to work. The instruction was a bit vague about how long one was supposed to wait with it.

Here is an original photo of the character Therese Voerman, as you can see, she has decided to wear glasses, though I'm pretty sure her eyesight as a vampire is exquisite. Easy to dress as, so I am not complaining!
The much more useful product was moonlight white make-up, which worked really well, expect it dried up my face even though I had put a lot of moisturizer underneath. It looked good and that's what matters, right? :) Unfortunately the lighting was not good and hence it does not show well in the photos. Life's small annoyances, eh?
This beautiful scenery is from the centre of my home town. The city councilor or some other entity has decided to install lights above the river. The Autumn here is so beautiful.

Have a lovely November!

Monday, 19 October 2015

Gothic Art in Spotlight: biblical irony or devotion?

I had once again grand plans to make a new Creepy Reads Review but the truth is I have not had any chance to read anything else but things related to my studies. I've been feeling very stressed for the past few weeks and it has manifested in many ways, one being that I have not had the energy to read or read and comment other blogs. I believe this abstinence of blogger contact makes me more melancholic and passive, so I do try to get back into blog sphere!The best way, I hope, is to write a post.

I managed to have a short break of my overwhelming studies and went to the Espoo Museum of Modern Art aka EMMA. It is situated in the facilities of Weegee exhibition center with four other museums and one futuristic cabin that looks like a flying saucer. The exhibition center is about 20 minutes bus drive from the centrum of Helsinki, so it is a great place to visit if you are on a weekend trip in the capital of Finland.

There were many a beautiful and intriguing art works to see but here is the one that I thought was the most suitable for Gothic Art in Spotlight.

This work is made by a Finnish artist Pauno Pohjolainen 2009. It is mixed media on wood and the name of it is Court Jester. I had seen Pohjolainen's works previously but they were more abstract. From this photo you can see how 3D this artwork is. Pohjolainen's works are often quite massive and are somewhere between paintings and sculptures.

Year 2011 he has made two public works to the Cathedral of Turku. They represent the Last Supper and can be found from the artist's webpage. The webpage is unfortunately in Finnish but just scroll to the year 2011, it is easy to spot which artworks have biblical reference in them. :)

I actually find this really interesting, because the Court Jester has clear biblical allusion in it but it is not necessarily positive or without critic or irony. At least I see a lot of resemblance between the crown of thorns and this hovering circle above the skull.

I see a clear point of contact between the Savior of Christian mythology and this skull with thorns. The skull, not being human, is against Christian mythology that very clearly separates humans from animals and places man above other creatures. On the other hand, the sacrificial lamb is a powerful symbol in the Christian mythology and the face of this creature does resemble a lamb a bit.

The name of this artwork also highlight a power structure, even though it is not strictly biblical. A court jester was an anomaly, a person in a court that supposedly had no power and was ridiculous but had the possibility to bring visible other people's schemes for power. The skull is grinning a wide fool's smile with its teeth partly scattered outside its mouth. The horns are also rich of significance: the other one is broken, why? Do they resemble a Fool's Hat or more likely the biblical Devil?

I like Court Jester because it is open to various interpretations. What do you think of it?

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Surprise Halloween present from fellow blogger!

I was supposed to write my next post about old fairy tales but life intervened in a form of a box decorated with bats.
Unexpectedly I received a Halloween gift package from the amazing Goth Gardener! She had decided to bring the joy of Halloween to those friends who live far and she sent us magnificent treats. This all happened with help from her husband who I had the chance to meet while I was in DC and I can honestly say that Goth Gardener and her spouse are extremely nice and warm people! Absolutely golden, I might say. :D
The first thing inside the box was a card from Goth Gardener, and I must say I truly admire her style! This card is the cutest Halloween card I've ever gotten.
I was super excited about this wonderful gift because we do not have Halloween stuff like this on my home country. Small selection might come into stores in the middle of October and vanish as soon as we reach November.
This package included two different styles of candles, an accessory scarf, hauntingly delicious hot chocolate and two other things I was astonished to find:

The most amazing part is that this package included a huge and aromatic pumpkin spice soap and hand towel set with gorgeous spiderweb decoration. I was just about to buy me a new soap bar and I only have two hand towels at the moment, so this gift couldn't have been more suitable. I'm pretty sure Goth Gardener has some serious psychic talents. :)
Thank you, Goth Gardener, you really made my day (Hell, you made my whole Autumn!) with this lovely gesture of friendship. <3

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Goth tourist in Dublin

As I mentioned in a previous post, I spent the first weekend of September in Dublin.
Things I saw

I went to two art museums, the National Gallery of Ireland and The Hugh Lane Dublin City Gallery. Both were exquisite and had free entry. Nothing extremely goth art was on display, so I am not going to write about them much. All I'll say is that if you are in Dublin, they are extremely nice places to spend a couple of hours.
Another not particularly goth or gloomy place to visit but in which I had a great time was Teeling Whiskey Distillery. They arrange tours and it is the only working whiskey distillery in Dublin.
In these huge tanks water leaves alcohol. They all had names and the liquid goes through from the biggest to the smallest. There are three copper ladies in a row.
Rebecca on the right can hold 9 000 liters. She is the smallest one. If I remember correctly the biggest of the sisters has the capacity of 15 000 liters or more.

A tad more goth-y or at least more geeky place to visit would be the old library of The Trinity College. The quality of photos is awful due to lighting conditions (to preserve old books). One could photograph only in The Long Room. If you think there is something familiar in this place, it might be because you have seen its doppelganger in the movie Star Wars II: Attack of the Clones.
They have around 200 000 books in this library and many of them are extremely valuable first editions. The most priced book of this library is the Book of Kells, It was written and drawn around year 800 and it contains the four Gospels. The most intriguing thing about it are the marvelous drawn decorations. Underneath this Long Room in the photos is a huge exhibition area dedicated solely to the Book of Kells. 
The most goth tourist attraction I found on a 48 hour trip was Marsh's Library. They have many ghost stories and other peculiar and sometimes morbid things on display. Among them a copy of Jonathan Swift's dear friend's skull. No photos are allowed to take in the library, so alas, I have nothing to show. They do have great photos and information on their website, though.

The Marsh's Library has stayed pretty much the same for 300 years and is an almost pristine example of 18th century library. James Joyce, Jonathan Swift and Bram Stoker have all visited it and used its services. The library still has the chair Mr. Stoker rested his bum on while he read about witchcraft!
One thing particular makes this place the gothiest place I visited and it is because their history and that they made a small comic book about the weirdest tales. It was created by John Rooney, the illustrator, and Julie Burke, who is the Education and Outreach Officer of the Marsh's Library.

I bought a copy and I must say it is great! I adore the style of the illustrator. All incidents or stories consist of a one picture and a text box but they are really amusing and sometimes a bit gross. My favorite story is about a 3500 years old mummy that was found in a cupboard at the library in 1888. Nobody knows how it ended up there!
You can read this small treasure online, if you want to, though I must say that buying it for mere 2 euros for a physical copy is a very good deal. They also have beautiful photos of details of their collection on Pinterest.

Prospects on shopping

In the post before the trip I wrote that I would like to go to goth clothing shops, if possible. There were a couple of alternative fashion stores in the Temple Bar area. They were nice but they mostly sold rock, psycho-billy etc. styles so I end up leaving without any purchases.
Obviously for those interested in Celtic myths, jewelry, and things related the Green Island is a heaven. Celtic necklaces are beautiful but not my style anymore, so no products came to my possession. What I really wanted to have was a selection of animal themed sticky notes. The bat and the dodo are my favorites.
 The sticky notes were sold in the shop of the National Gallery of Ireland. It contains 8 different animals in 8 different sticky note piles and it costed about 12 euro.
From an Irish gift shop called Old World New I found this beautiful thing. "Wolf's Bane. Potion No. 5. Slightly bitter potion to take the edge off your Lycanthropy. Drink at your own risk."
I am not sure if one can actually use it and store some liquid in it. The bottleneck is really small and it would be a pain in the ass to try to clean it after usage. No matter, it looks gorgeous by my window, next to a candelabra I found at a flea market last summer.
Next up: Creepy Reads Review after a long pause!

Thursday, 10 September 2015

Sneak a peek of my home

And I really mean a teeny tiny sneak-peek of my homely objects. The decor is still horribly unfinished but here are some fragments in photos.

In this jar are laundry soap nuts. They are a natural and ecological washing product to be used instead of washing powder. They have no particular smell or fragrance and they do not tend to cause allergies. I like them a lot since my skin is rather sensitive to fabric softeners and washing powders.

Also, I do not like it if the laundry detergents have strong odors. It will intervene one's perfume. Think about it, shampoo and conditioner smell to fruity things, laundry powder smells some other freshness or fruits, your body butter something else. and then you might have l'eau de toilette or perfume on your skin. It is a cacophony of odors.

In this other photo you will see something I do not like to live without. A coffeemaker. I received as a gift this fancy model that has a small kettle to whip milk. Therefore I could make cappuccinos, lattes etc. I never drink my morning coffee with milk, so I have not yet used the milk part it in my new apartment. I have made pretty drinks with it before, though.

Here is a layered drink I made some time ago. There is cinnamon and sugar sprinkled on top. It was made into a Campari glass, because I either have an alcohol problem or it was the only glass that was the right size and had the right form for successful layering. I leave it to you to judge.

Even though I delight in photographing my everyday necessities, I also wish to share with you a triumph of mine.

About a year ago I bought an art print called Valon tuoma, which means "brought by light". It is made by a Finnish graphic artist from the city of Lahti which is situated about an hour's drive or an hour's train trip away from the capital, Helsinki. Unfortunately I have temporarily mislaid the little informational paper with facts about the artist who produced this work and I can not quite make out the name of the artist from the signature. Shame on me.

Regardless of that I am still going to show it because I am filled with motherly proud of this gorgeous work of art. Motherly because I finally got appropriate frames for it. They are made of some luscious dark red/brown wood and they have lovely old-looking metal decorations around them. I guess if I cleaned them they would be more like silver but I quite fancy that darker shade.

Little patina is so romantic goth, isn't it?

As you probably know, when printing graphics each print will be slightly different from the others and the last of the series can be of completely different shade of a color (if there are like 200 prints). My brought by light is 3/6. That means there were only six of them made and it is the third one of the series.

In the art shop there was also the first one of the series but its colors were slightly more warm, so I decided to have the third one. The colors felt more night-like. Maybe the ominous warmth could have been interpreted as some nuclear fallout and unhealthy radiation but I like cold shades more than warm ones. Wine or ruby red is the only exception. Of course I do not loathe warm colors but I would not wear them unless I had a good amount of black fabric shielding me from them. ;)

I wanted the frames to be somewhat old. I found these from a flea-market. They costed about 13 euros and they were a bargain. Inside the frames was a painting of some sort of a small palm tree in a pot. It was so hideous that if I had tried to photograph it my camera's lens would have shattered.

On the back side was a thick layer of tape around the edges to keep the disgusting palm tree inside. I tore them off only to find out that there were 25 nails keeping the back lid still. Overdoing it, much?

After some powerful curse words I finally got it open.

The artwork was slightly smaller than the frames so I decided to buy a regular black paperboard as a background. It was a tad too long so I cut it. Work in progress to be seen here:
The end result is here. I really like it. The paper on which the picture is printed is slightly curly, so you can see sort of small waves on the paper. Please click the photo for larger view!
I adore this work. The skeleton figure in the middle of snowy forest. Macabre, intimidating and sublime.

By the way, it was really hard to try to take photos from an angle the reflections would not spoil the photo! 7/10 performance, I'd say.

Next up: Some highlights from my trip to Dublin and then Creepy Reads Review about some disturbing fairy tales by Brothers Grimm!