Throughout most recorded history, human societies have used various types of cemeteries for burial purposes; this theme points to humanity’s need to construct a meaning behind death and reflect life into the places where the dead are interred. Whether the bodies of the deceased are placed in the ground, within elaborate tombs, or simply in the presence of ancient or contemporary monuments, their location holds symbolic meaning as well as practical historical meaning for the surrounding living community.
At the beginning of November, Mexicans celebrate Día de los Muertos, Day of the Dead. People wash and sweep their family’s grave-houses, decorate them with flowers, bring their loved ones’ favourite dishes, and eat the meal by the graves.
Up until the early 20th century, cemeteries in America were a popular place to relax, picnic and get together near a loved one’s grave.
In Prague, the old Jewish Cemetery is a popular place of pilgrimage, particularly by Jewish people who come to pray and leave small coins on tombstones. While I was in Prague I visited this famed cemetery but I managed to find my way to the Old Jewish Cemetery in Zizkov and the sprawling, beautiful Olsany Cemetery which is also in Zizkov.
The challenge, this November, is to think of a ritualistic way that I can honour my ancestors.
Wiki How, which claims to explain how to do almost anything, actually has an interesting page about how to buy Souveniers and Gifts Overseas! Needless to say, I only found this page as I prepared to write this post.
Happily, I only intended to buy a couple of gifts while away, but I must admit that, as I walked up along the streets towards the Old Town Square in Prague, I felt despondent! I was not impressed with the tacky tourist offerings. I was looking for posters but instead saw cheap teatowels, postcards, magnets and assorted junk that I wouldn’t even buy for our ‘who can choose the tackiest, ugliest Christmas present’ contest.
As my day for departure drew closer and I had no more success in the villages we visited, I had all but given up! Then, as if by magic, (well Google actually) I found out about Bohemian Retro. Even with a map in hand, I had trouble navigating my way to this small vintage store which turned out to be only a few streets away from my Airbnb! Believe it or not, when I staggered into Palac Acropolis Retro (which includes a bar and restaurant) to ask for directions, I found the owners of Bohemian Retro having their lunch. I decided that lunch was actually a very good idea and enjoyed an authentic Czech meal served with the most amazing mashed potato of all things – all for little more than five Australian dollars.
If you want to be cheered up, feel welcomed, find something unique and totally in your price range, and walk out feeling better than you did when you arrived – then definitely come here and visit Becky
In fact I don’t even know why I’m raving about this place because it just means you might go and buy something that I’ve been eyeing .. But there are always some surprises waiting so be sure to visit and take a look!
As a Buy Nothing New, vintage shop, charity shop fan, I was certainly cheered up as I rummaged through the piles of goodies. Bohemian Retro is the kind of place I take people on mystery writing tours because the goods have so many stories to tell.
Ultimately it was the 1950’s Bohemian Crystal bead necklaces that were affordable and not from the heavily branded company with stores up and down the alleyways of popular tourist villages, which caught my eye – along with some delightful brooches.
Completely satisfied with my selections, carefully placed into lovely old jewellery boxes at no extra expense, I treated myself to a tiny hand-stitched wall hanging to pin with a host of other things I have on pinboards, located, believe it or not, in my toilet. Ask my friends! Complete with fairy lights it is quite a gallery there now!
On my final day in Prague, inspired by my success at Bohemian Retro, I intended to visit a charity store I discovered was within walking distance from my apartment. Alas, it was closed, as was the Poster studio I had found out about. But back at the market, I managed to pick up some cool second-hand books! Another time I will be better prepared and I will have researched and identified precisely where to go.
If I should die,
And you should live,
And time should gurgle on,
And morn should beam,
And noon should burn,
As it has usual done;
‘Tis sweet to know….
That commerce will continue,
And trades as briskly fly.
It make the parting tranquil
And keeps the soul serene,
That gentlemen so sprightly
Conduct the pleasing scene!
Once I learned about the Sedlec Ossuary I knew that I would be making a visit to Kutna Hora during my time in the Czech Republic. It was by sheer chance that I stumbled upon Prague Bus Tours as I scurried away, fled from the milling masses in the Old Town Square in the centre of Prague. There was little to hold me there! Overpriced cafes, endless shops selling piles of tacky souvenirs, horse and cart rides and the usual get on, get off bus tours. There may well have been better deals available but this company, true to their word, picked me up at my Airbnb and even went out of their way to drop me at another address on the return journey.
The only downside was that our charming guide never had volume button so we could not lower the sound as we drove through the Bohemian countryside. When two American women and I tumbled off the bus all I could mutter was that “I only came to see the bones!”. As we distanced ourselves from the very loud commentary I teased others and asked why they were not taking notes. Much to fellow travellers amusement, I remarked that there would be a test at the end and if we failed we would have to do it all again, with him, tomorrow.
That aside, nothing prepares you for the awe-inspiring Sedlec Ossuary. For once I was speechless! It is magnificent and I was taken by what I perceived to be ‘reverence’ for those fallen whose bones lie here.
I discovered that a Prague market really is authentic, genuine and very popular among the locals. Prague markets are on throughout the year, most typically on Saturday mornings, but I first visited the Jirak market on a Wednesday. This market presented what is in season and what you should expect – and demand – on the menu in the best restaurants in Prague.
The Jirak market is at the Jiriho z Podebrad square in what is if the number of designer stores is any indication, the affluent and swanky Vinohrady district.
Going to Jirak not only introduces you to a local market but it also enables you to see a residential area of Prague outside of the centre. It is smaller than the popular Naplavka Market but the atmosphere is less busy and easier going. While you can enjoy some traditional Czech food without the madness of the more central Prague markets I opted for some hot Pizza and a juice.
Another bonus of this market is that there are a lot of benches around the market so you can just enjoy the moment, listening to local musicians, watching the local crowd, in the shade of the TV Tower and the Church of the Most Sacred Heart of our Lord which dominates the square.
Personally, a highlight was finding the Boho Cafe, store and eclectic purveyor of vintage goods just around the corner. I sat and enjoyed coffee from fine china and water served in Bohemian crystal glass that one might expect to be presented with at high tea in a very swanky hotel.
My first experience travelling solo as a single, older woman was a resounding success.
Prague and the Czech Republic proved to be the ideal place to put one’s learner plates on. My Airbnb host picked me up at the main railway station, showed me my gorgeous, tiny apartment in Zizkov (Prague 3) and provided the most important directions – to the nearest trustworthy bank ATM, the best local coffee shops, some maps and the location of transport into town.
Having no desire to spend my time with the milling hoards of tourists who pour into Prague all year round I only briefly explored the main city and tourist hotspots. I spent the majority of my time wandering around my immediate neighbourhood taking photos of fragments like these. I met a friend’s son and partner for drinks and dinner and glimpsed their lifestyle! I found my way out to two stunning Bohemian towns and stumbled upon all sorts of interesting things that not everyone would notice.
I have been romancing the creative spirit by wandering back into Soul Food and using tried and true idea generators with children in years 4-6 at Winters Flat Primary School. We have used guided imagery to wander deep within a seashell, through a pearly door to an alternative world. We have chosen fragments from my box of wonder and within seconds of holding it in our hand told stories to one another. We have sat drawing Prince Prospero’s (Edgar Allen Poe Masque of the Red Death) castle and given Red Death a face, written ballads and news reports about the Masque of the Red Death and marvelled at the wisdom of Australian birds and animals.
Children have loved contemplating how to build up their artistic eyes and they have written with speed and passion that is a joy to watch. Words literally fall on to the page within just ten minutes! Ballads, lyrics, complex drawings, news reports, fiction and folklore have emerged on their pages and the excitement, as they share their work and cheer one another on is palpable.
Over the coming weeks, I will be featuring some of their work. It feels good to be romancing the creative spirit again!
One of the oldest art forms on the planet is the artwork of the satin bowerbird. If we take the time to observe we can learn from this bird. We can learn and strengthen our artist’s eye.
The male bowerbird creates what is called his bower. It’s not a nest, but an artwork he builds in the hope he can attract a female to visit it, observe his performance in and around the bower, and then—if he’s lucky—mating just might occur!” In parts of Northern Australia, the bowerbird collects colourful rocks, leaves or other trinkets and patiently places them in an artistic formation. When the shrine is complete they wait patiently for females to approach to judge their creativity. If the females like what they see the pair will breed.
Take the time to go out and gather some special pieces to make a bower, or altar of your own.
The whale is renowned for its soul songs, songs that enrich and nurture the soul. Carl Sagan taught that one of the truly magical things about whales was the importance of their songs. Whales, quite literally, have a catalogue of songs that they remember and sing. Apparently, they have a different song for each month of the year. They will also have a special song that they sing in a certain location, leave, come back and pick up the song again. These soul songs travel far and wide throughout the oceans.
Since I have been on placement at Winters Flat primary I have remembered the song of my soul. I am back in the classroom as a specialist teacher of writing working with children of all ages and plan to feature the activities and responses of students, parents and teachers in a special Advent Calendar at the end of this year.
Here are some words that are associated with the whale. Think of them as fridge leftovers and make something out of them. Sing a song, be it a ballad, some hip hop, a hymn or a rhapsody and share it today.
Because the turkey is closely associated with the spirit of the Earth, it is also symbolic of feminine energies at work in our lives. This animal has been revered in ancient traditions as a symbol of fertility and abundance.
The turkey is a useful guide to unlocking the fullness of life. It invites those who have it as a totem to cultivate the balance between giving and receiving and find contentment in what they have.
The spirit of the Turkey totem puts an emphasis on community and the importance of sharing and generosity. The wisdom of this spirit animal is about paying attention to the people who are part of our life, whether it’s our family members, coworkers, classmates, or society at large.
When the turkey shows up as a spirit guide, it encourages us to see beyond our immediate personal needs and foster a sustainable relationship with others. Those who have the turkey as a power animal or totem may be inclined to be generous and giving without expecting anything in return.
Turkey comes to remind us to share our gifts with those around us, without any expectation of receiving. The only way to receive is to give with an open heart.
It is no accident that Parrot has flown into my world, encouraging me to keep seeking what nourishes me. Like the parrot, we are each wonderful beings, each gifted with special skills. The parrot’s resplendent colours speak of wearing one’s beauty on the sleeve. The parrot is a gregarious bird who enjoys the interaction with others. After so long tucked up inside my burrow I am happy to be interacting with others.
The parrot also has a great ability to satisfy its needs by foraging for food and nesting places. It is known to eat fruit and seeds and builds nests in all manner of places. Like the parrot, I am actively seeking that which meets my personal needs and the really good news is that a vision is, like a jigsaw puzzle, falling into place.
While walking my dogs I came upon some stunningly beautiful thistles. The thistle has been much maligned. Being a tough plant, the thistle grows everywhere other plants usually don’t. It stands for surviving where others won’t and often this is surviving harsh conditions.
Allow yourself to be seen for your gentleness as well as your strength.
Call in balance and harmony in your emotions.
Give yourself time to grow into your full gifts.
Dive deep internally to fully connect with your hidden gifts and talents.
Forgive yourself and others for not fully appreciating you, and focus on truly loving yourself and what you have to offer.
* Understands the power of the sunrise
* Ability to survive harsh conditions
* Communication skills
The cockatoo is a member of the parrot family. Its most noticeable feature is its magnificent crest, which crowns the top of its head. This crest is used to send signals to other birds in the flock. More than a colourful ornament it represents communication. When raised and used with other parts of the body it can indicate several things from defending its territory or its flock, calling for its mate, showing fear or indicating that something is bothering it. True communication is a complex art. The cockatoo knows of this complexity and teaches us how to understand and correctly interpret messages that come our way.
Beautiful in colour and appearance the cockatoo holds the teachings of self-esteem and confidence. The rose and grey coloured galah teach us spontaneity and fearlessness.
These birds are intelligent, affectionate and acrobatic. Adults take care of one another and mate for life. Cockatoos are social birds and enjoy companionship with others of their flock. When danger appears they will either fly off or become very still hoping to remain unnoticed. They are always conscious of their surroundings and are masters in the art of survival. As pets, they are inquisitive and affectionate as well as unpredictable. Known as great escape artists they will use their powerful beaks to open locks on cages.
Coming into contact with one of these birds in the wild or as a pet can be an unforgettable experience. They are extremely ingenious. Watching them perform is like watching a magician pull things out of a hat, you never know what the cockatoo will do next or what hidden skill it will use to complete its task. The cockatoo is a great teacher. It is reminding us to play.
Yesterday I acquired some wonderful books by Marion Deuchers that promote art play. Back in the day, I encouraged students to create figures on their handprints and then use these to create stories. Needless to say, Duechers work with handprints really captured my imagination.
I plan to use these at a primary school where I will be doing my placement and with a small writing group that I am running at home.
Today the butterfly is reminding me not to rush the process of transformation. I am writing my final essay and I am preparing for a 500-hour placement beginning in June. Butterfly reminds me to spend some time in the cocoon of my home nurturing my creativity and getting in touch with my feelings. Within the cocoon, I can embrace the rapture of transformation and rebirth; trust that a force greater than me has a guiding hand in what I will do when I finally complete this degree in September.
You may not spend a week gorging yourself but just unike the very hungry caterpillar, you can undergo a complete metamorphosis and reinvent yourself repeatedly.
Transformation * Change * Celebrating Life’s Miracles * Magick of the Vortex * Lightness of Being * Joy * Understanding * Reincarnation * Seeing Time as an Illusion * Communication with the Spirit World
It’s hard to imagine any creature being so loved by so many civilizations and across so many traditions than the Butterfly. They have captured our fancy since time immemorial. As children, we found our imagination carried away on their painted wings, to the fantastical realms of fairies and elves. And as adults, we are beckoned back to the memories of those magical days, whenever we see these beautiful insects flutter dreamily past.
One has only to think about the miraculous life cycle of these amazing creatures to witness true magick. They begin as larvae in its most basic and vulnerable state, the fuzzy, wriggly form of the caterpillar. Then they enter their self-made cocoon, a time capsule that holds them in what seems like a suspended embrace, but in reality is more akin to a portal of metamorphosis. Finally, the chrysalis breaks, and an entirely new emerging, this one with wings of such ethereal beauty that our minds can scarcely grasp how such a previously odd and rather uninteresting creature, could transform into such a resplendent wonder.
If this stunning insect has chosen to journey with you as a Spirit Guide, count yourself fortunate, for theirs is the Magick of the Fairy realm, the miracle of transformation, and the teachings of one who passionately embraces change. They are a Spirit Animal that guides through the imagination, and imbues their human counterpart with a sense of joy and the ability to celebrate the special miracles we all encounter as we walk through this life.
Butterfly is beside you to teach you that you should always strive to keep your sense of wonder, to find the miracles in the tiniest of places, and to always look for ways in which you can create more beauty in your life, in the lives of others, and in the world at large. She teaches you that time is but an illusion in the greater reality of our immortal souls, whilst simultaneously reminding you that each moment is precious and filled with limitless possibilities.