13 August 2010

Amazon Legacy: Halloween Costume Crafting

Xena: Warrior Princess is one of many inspirations
behind my latest Halloween costume choice
Halloween has always been my favorite holiday, long before I associated the secular celebration of candy and playing dress-up and harassing your neighbors with Samhain; thus, I take both versions of the holiday very seriously. Especially the playing dress-up part. I’ve made my costume every year since I was in second grade, apart from the last two years when I’ve been too busy at school to have time. However, this year, I’m determined to make my costume again, and I’m going all out. I’ve already bought the fabric (it’s shipped to my parents house, so when they come up this weekend, they’re bringing it for me) and then the other supplies I’ll need have already shipped to my PO Box at school. I had an excellent time unpacking the craft supplies (to include some fabric paint, sew-on gems, black ribbon, grommets, and new titanium fabric shears) yesterday. As you can tell, I’m quite excited.

I decided this year to make a costume that I can reuse, and not just a costume, but one that--with my newfound openness about my spirituality--aligns with my beliefs and the archetypes to which I ascribe. Thus, I’ve chosen to make a warrior outfit, slightly inspired by the ever glorious roll-model Xena. I loved that show when I was a little girl, and I still watch it. Eventually I’ll buy the boxed set on DVD, but that might have to wait for a few more paychecks. Until then, I’ll make due with my Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Dollhouse, and Farscape collections…wow, I’m such a nerd. And a huge fan of Joss Whedon, as you can likely tell. Excellent director. The costume I’m making, however, will be a little more conservative than Xena’s usual garb and will also have a faux fur cloak to go with it. I’ll post pictures of the process once I start working on it. Just waiting for that fabric now.

In continuation of my feminist Russian thesis paper excerpts, here’s another one:

Vasilisa the Wise is not the only account of Baba Yaga, nor is it the only tale with a predominantly female cast. The mothers, sisters, wives, and grandmothers of heroes sometimes aid him in his journey, although more commonly they are the victims of the tale. The hero often faces a dragon or chases a firebird. The firebird itself is said to bear a woman’s face and sing with a woman’s voice. Combing their hair by riverbanks lounge the tragic rusalki, who sing like sirens from Greek epics and lure men to watery deaths. Also fixed prominently in the peasant folklore is Mati Syra Zemlya, or Mother Moist Earth, who makes the fields fertile with life-sustaining crops. It is clear that Russian skazki, or fairy tales, contain many examples of strong, intelligent, self-sufficient women.

In contrast to the prevalence of such figures in fairy tales and mythology, on first examination Russia appears to be a culture with a long patriarchal past. For example, according to 17th century social and religious thought, women were inherently sinful and unreliable, redeeming themselves only as mothers. The domestic realm, even after the Petrine revolution of the following century, remained the primary acceptable outlet for feminine energies. However, upon closer inspection, the folkloric presence of independent females left its mark on society, especially among the peasant class where those myths and tales were recounted with frequency. Furthermore, archeological evidence suggests that some of these female figures may be in part factually based, linking burial mounds full of armed women to descriptions of Amazonian matriarchy. While I am not denying that the principle structure of Russian society in recent centuries has been patriarchal in nature, I would argue that the legacy left by a history of feminine concepts of divinity and power is evident in the enduring mythology and later dual-faith, and in turn that mythology offered an example of strength and endurance from which real women were able to benefit.

Sources used in this excerpt:
Barbara Elpern Engel, Women in Russia, 1700-2000 (2004)
Joanna Hubbs, Mother Russia: The Feminine Myth in Russian Culture (1993)

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