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St. Agnes Eve

   Hello there my friends, and welcome! Did you know that this evening is....St. Agnes Eve? Ah, well...it is! Tomorrow, January 21, is The Feast of St. Agnes, an early Christian Martyr from the reign of Emperor Diocletian. Legend holds that she was a beautiful young girl of about 12 or 13 years old who was killed because she had decided to dedicate herself to Christ and not marry. Facts about her life and existence are murky, although early archeaological evidence has been uncovered of virgin named Agnes who was venerated for her sacrifice.
    This young martyr is often depicted with a lamb, since the name 'Agnes' is derived from the Latin word for lamb, "Agnus." Like many martyrs of this early Christian era, her story is marked with extreme violence. She lived in a world that was ruled by domination and brute force. Yet in the midst of this time, Agnes was a child who was brave enough to stand up for her beliefs and withstand efforts to degrade and assault her. It is said that anyone who attempted to hurt her was struck blind, or even fell dead. When several methods of trying to kill her failed, she was finally beheaded, and her renown seems to have sprung up from that very day.
   I read recently that another concept of 'virgin' in these times was 'free woman,' a woman who belonged to no man but Christ. In this moment in time when women were literally considered property, this was a society-shaking concept. She created an identity for herself that was not dependent on a mortal man, and this infuriated those in power.
  Something else that is thought provoking is how the story of one brave child has lasted so long...when the names of Emperors and rulers fade from public memory, a young girl who stood up for herself still remains part of memory and faith story. To me, that is all part of the miracle of little Agnes.

    As the decades turned into centuries and Christianity became a way of life for many Europeans, Christian stories and folk traditions began to spring up and intertwine. St. Agnes Eve traditions about love took hold in medieval times, where somehow this patron of chastity became the champion of young ladies in pursuit of finding their true love.
   In England and Scotland, young women saw St. Agnes Eve (January 20th) as a night that a vision of their true love would come to them if they followed the steps of simple rituals.

   One such ritual included the young woman picking pins from a pincushion while reciting the Pater Noster (Our Father prayer) and sticking the pins into her sleeve. Then the young woman was to go directly to bed, laying on her back with her hands behind her head. That night as she slept, her True Love was to come to her and give her a kiss in her sleep....

  And so, on this St. Agnes Eve night....I hope you take a moment to remember this little saint of such renown. And if you be single and looking for true love....perhaps its time to search out your pincushion.

   My little painting above was done recently, and although the original is sold....I'd like to do some little saint cards, I think, and add little Agnes.

   Take Joy!~

Winter Vigil, Winter Blooms

   Good morning, my friends. I am writing to you this morning on a very cold, gray day here in Oklahoma. There is no snow....and all the rain we've had has stopped. All that has served to make things very muddy, very muted, very still.
   I wanted to share with you one of my newest paintings, that is all about winter, yet all about rich color too. This painting is "Winter Vigil" and it has a very meandering inspiration, and for all of that, I think it turned out so lovely! The seed for the idea of this painting came from the Christmas Album of British/Eastern European singer, Katia Melua, who was born in the country of Georgia. She sang a gorgeous rendition of Rachmaninoff's "Nunc Dimittis, All Night Vigil." Its considered one of the Russian masterpieces of music, and Melua's version just pulls at my heart strings. This section of the piece also finds inspiration in The Presentation of Our Lord/ Purification of the Virgin Mary, and you'll see that depicted in the icon behind the young woman who is keeping her Winter Vigil, candle in hand. The original is now sold, and I was so happy to hear that it went to a person who has been doing wonderful work with a church associated with the name of the icon! You can now buy prints of this piece, however, in my etsy shop.

   I am also happy to report that just a few days ago, The BBC featured Katie Melua singing for the Gori Choir (a women's choir from her native Georgia) singing in a gorgeous Orthodox church, with a wonderful introduction from Melua. Here is a link to the youtube video of that performance, and I hope it makes you fall in love with the music and the painting too:

   Now doesn't that make you feel all quiet and contemplative, on a dark winter's day? I know it does for me ;) But also.....these dark winter days have me enjoying little glimpses of grown and green, and I couldnt resist bringing home a little bouquet of roses the other day, to sit in my kitchen window...

  I also finally planted the bulbs I bought well...in December, thinking I'd have them out at Christmas! Well, that didnt happen....but the bulbs were still cheerfully ready to be planted and start to thrive near the dining room window. I planted paperwhites and then an Amaryllis in brass planters I've gotten at Estate sales and Good Will. I also found a little hyacinth in a pretty white and blue porcelain bowl at the grocery store of all places....and yes, that came home with me too! I'm a little glad I was behind in planting them all, so now we will have a little taste of spring as we wait out the rest of these winter days...

   I also wanted to share with you an intriguing antique photo I found in a heap of old photos in an antique mall in Missouri a while back. I was drawn to it because of the woman's headscarf and the exotic cyrillic writing on the back. I shared a photo of the writing with friends on instagram, and was told that the photo mark indicated that it was taken in St. Petersburg, Russia! The fact that is said "St Petersburg" instead of Leningrad indicates that the photo was taken before the Russian Revolution in 1917.

   I am so intrigued by their faces....and wonder endlessly about what their story may be. The fact that I found this photo in Missouri leads me to believe that it came all the way from Russia with an immigrant. Who were the immigrants, I wonder? Did the entire family come? Or perhaps just the couple with the baby? Or even the young woman beside her father? Was this a last photo before the big trip, to remember loved ones? Oh the story that is hidden here....if only there were names to perhaps look into who they were, because I always want to know the story...instead I will just hope that their adventures and life were happy and blessed. And that sweet baby.....where might life have taken him or her? Hopefully to wonderful places.....and who knows, perhaps their descendants live nearby?

   Well, I will leave you for now, with wishes that you too find happiness and blessings wherever life takes you! Thank you for coming to visit me here. I am busy painting, with my artist eye set on spring. It will be here before we know it!~

Take Joy,