This Halloween, my friends and I indulged in our ever-growing love for fancy dress at Body & Soul’s ‘Shapeshifters Ball’. The setting for this wonderful evening was the The Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA). Body & Soul presented this night of creepy delights in association with The Bram Stoker Festival 2014.
Every year, we usually try to keep our costumes a secret from each other until the actual night and once again none of my friends failed to impress.
Carrie’s (AKA – Theadstories) wolf mask is an amazing example of what can be done through crochet. She designed and created this headpiece from scratch and it is made entirely from wool. The different colours that she used and the way in which she styled it, gave it so much character. I also loved the ribbon fringe neckpiece that she wore.
Shane’s (AKA Monkey’s) costume was also very creative, he went as ‘Mr. Hangover’. This was a nice reminder to us all about how we might end up the next day, if we weren’t careful.
Shane (AKA Pigeon) and Catherine went as a lion and his lion tamer. Catherine remained in character for most of the night which entertained us all and kept Shane on his toes/paws.
I went as a magpie! I created my headdress from taxidermied magpie wings, took inspiration from the movie ‘Black Swan’ for my eyes and wore a white dress with a black and white Kimono over it. I also created a claw on one of my hands by gluing together some plastic witches fingers (that you can buy in the pound-shop) and spraying them white.
This year the inspiration for my costume sprung from the fact that over the last while, on a daily basis, I have been seeing at least one Magpie. I am not crazy superstitious or anything but after reading ‘The Alchemist’ by Paulo Coelho, I was on a pursuit to learn the “language of the world”. I had been keeping my eyes pealed for signs/ omens and trying to learn how to read them. I soon learnt however that this pursuit could become very convoluted by other people’s opinions and beliefs.
Initially I looked upon these daily sightings as a bad sign and hated seeing them. I grew up knowing the popular nursery rhyme about magpies – ‘One for sorrow, Two for joy, Three for a girl, Four for a boy………..
According to this superstition the number of magpies you see determines your luck. ‘One for sorrow’ kept echoing in my brain. I decided to try and look for something different in this omen and started to look into how the magpie is viewed in different cultures and folklore.
My research taught me that the Magpie is regarded as a highly intelligent bird that is able to adapt to changing environments. Superstitions regarding the magpie shift dramatically depending on where you are from.
In some cultures they are messengers that bring good news and good people. In others, they are creatures that can control the weather, indicators of forthcoming events, watchmen, sorcerers, unholy creatures, thieves, allies and helpers of humans.
In western countries we have ideologies and propaganda that are very anti-magpie. However in China they look upon these birds as a representation of duality – Yin and Yang unified as a symbol of wholeness. Here they are seen as a bird of good fortune and as a symbol of happiness. Of every outlook that I came across regarding the magpie, I found this perspective to be the most appealing. They do have similarities to the west, two magpies are also used to represent joy. However, it is because they signify ‘double happiness’.
There is a tale in China called TheWeaver Girl and the Cowherd that tells of two star-crossed lovers that meet once a year, on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month, on a celestial bridge made up of a flock of magpies.
The ‘Qixi Festival’ in China, is a celebration of this legend and has become known as the Chinese Valentines’ Day. During this festival, festoons are placed in people’s yards and single or newly wed women make offerings to these star crossed lovers. These offerings may include fruit, tea, flowers and the burning of paper items. In this legend the magpie is seen as a healer for relationships and as a symbol for faithfulness to partners and families.
Also in China a painting or scene with a magpie (or magpies) perched amongst or on top of the branches of a blossom tree expresses a general wish for happiness and joy, as both symbols are signs of impending good news.
I now look upon the magpie as an unpredictable, high-spirited, expressive creature; who is opportunistic, perceptive, flashy, refined, willful and social. Seeing a magpie is now a reminder for me to express these attributes in myself more. It is also a reminder to me that there are a lot of opinions out there, to not get too tied up in other people’s ways and to choose my own path.
My Chinese inspired magpie costume is now a reference to this new outlook.
Images I used as inspiration for my costume.
As you may have noticed I have discovered the joy of the GIF! I used the site GIFMaker.me to create all of the GIF’s seen on this page. I also created some of the photos in this post with an app called ‘PhotoMirror’. They remind me of some video work that I created back in collage. Here are two examples taken from a video installation for my end of year show titled ‘Eye Pull I’.
On the day of the ‘Shapeshifters Ball’ I came across this nice piece of graffiti, just off Thomas Street…….I took it as a good sign!!!
© Most photos shown have been taken by Rachel Kiernan and are not to be used without permission.