Witches Abroad [OOTD]

Friday, 30 June 2017
Копенхаген, Дания
“Well, I suppose there’s no place like home,” she said.
“No,” said Granny Weatherwax, still looking thoughtful. “No. There’s a billion places like home. But only one of ’em’s where you live.”
- Terry Pratchett, Witches Abroad

 I am a bad traveller. I do not react well to the dry air in aeroplanes, I'm always a bit shy when speaking to new people and, sooner or later, I always want to come back home, wherever that is. The cult to travelling has been gaining popularity for a while, and for a very good reason. I, too, feel like I don't want to have a fixed address sometimes, and I just can't sit still in one city for long. Nevertheless, as wonderful as the prospect of a life of constant adventuring sounds, I seem to prefer the comfort of a cat's soft purr lulling me to sleep each night, rather than the growling of an unfamiliar engine. 

 Much to my own surprise, just last week I found myself boarding a plane to Copenhagen after booking the tickets a mere few hours beforehand. Rest assured that an entirely separate travel post will be up shortly, detailing what little time I had the pleasure of spending there. For now, let us focus on what I managed to shove into my suitcase at the last minute, so as to take up as little space as possible.
 As I like to bring a piece of home along with me on my journeys, I could not resist taking this beautiful embroidered shirt, passed down to me by my grandmother. It is made of natural materials, so it would not irritate my skin no matter what, and it turned out to be perfect for the surprisingly hot Danish weather. Pairing it with a skirt and a pair of overalls turned out to be better than using a traditional apron, at least in this particular case. Of course, even the well-prepared travellers always forget to pack one thing or another. More often than not, the item I omit to bring is a suitable pair of shoes. It was by pure chance that I found these wonderful espadrilles while passing through one of the stores in the centre of the city. Finally, to complete this look, I added a gorgeous necklace, hand-woven out of oxidised silver and into traditional Scandinavian knots. Denmark is a Nordic country, after all. Just like with the espadrilles, I happened to be in the right place at the right time and spotted Elizabeth Arnstad's beautiful creations in a tiny and otherwise unassuming market stand.

 The sweetest moment whilst we were taking these photos was when something soft landed on my arm. There, next to me, was a single, spotless white feather. As fellow witches will have already guessed, my flight home was a safe and comfortable one.

 Thank you for reading, and I hope you have a magickal weekend. ☽🌕☾ 

The unexpected appearance of this rainbow is the only reason I've added this photo.

Top: Vintage
Skirt: SheIn
Suspenders: H&M
Shoes: Soludos
Necklace: Elizabeth Arnstad / Etsy

The Quest for "The Golden Apple"

Thursday, 22 June 2017
Starting this post off with an explanation of how inspirational mythology and folklore are to me and how influential Norse, Japanese, Egyptian, etc. legends are to pop culture would be unnecessary. A tad condescending, even. Hence why I will skip the introductions and jump straight to the main body of the text: the lesser-known mythology of the Balkans.

 This is where Studio Zmei comes in. They are a team of talented, hard-working animators and storytellers with a brave, but entirely possible dream: to create a fantasy animated series based on the folklore and legends of the Balkans, and to share it with the entire world.

 The animation, called The Golden Apple, takes place in an enchanting (and enchanted) realm where mists spill from the gossamer hairs of the elemental spirits and you might just catch one of the seasons roaming the forests and pastures of the land. Just be wary if you hear singing coming through the trees, lest the beautiful samodivi lure you in. Their haunting song can be both a blessing and a curse, and you can not always be certain which one it is.

 In this world, things do not happen just "because magic", as they often do in fantasy. Kuker magic, for one, uses the musical sound of enchanted bells and follows a dance-to-writing system. Each move reflects and spells out a letter from the Glagolitic script, the oldest known Slavic writing (read more here). The more experienced a kuker warrior is, the faster he can cast spells with his dance. You can learn more about kuker warriors in the video The Legend of the First Kuker Warrior.

It is said that once every 100 years a comet crosses the sky and falls on top of the legendary Kuber Mountain. Out of it grows a tree, bearing a single golden apple, with the power to fulfil wishes...
 And who better to set off in search for this treasure than the most unlikely team of heroes, who are only just coming of age: the kuker warriors Bran and Vlad, the half-human, half-zmey Vihra and the samodiva Tina-Pakostina (or Tina the troublemaker). Of course, we cannot omit to mention the adorable animal sidekick who won the heart of many people: the one and only Haralampy the sheep (or simply Harry for short).

 Obviously, there will be a myriad of obstacles standing in the way of the main characters, including the monsters and nightmares of their world. In our folklore, however, there is no black-and-white division between good and evil. All of these magical creatures can both help and harm, depending on one's actions towards them.
 Furthermore, as with many other cultures, a deep respect towards nature is crucial to our lives. Much like our reality, the world of The Golden Apple has to deal with the issues brought about by uncontrolled industrialisation.
 Finally, this fictional world is just as diverse as our own. As such, its population is no stranger to social prejudice and exclusion. Our folklore's very goal to instil a sense of belonging in people. Though characters in the series are very different from each other, they all have a desire to help not only themselves, but their community as well. The only way for them to achieve this is by working together.

  Incidentally (or not), these values still matter, even in our contemporary society. By retelling old stories in a modern, eye-catching manner, The Golden Apple aims to convey the morals they carry, whilst simultaneously introducing the world to the colourful folklore of the Balkans. Legends are lessons, as a wise fictional queen once said.

 I have been following this project closely ever since its announcement in 2014. Unfortunately, Studio Zmei need more funds to create their pilot episode. Due to lack of sponsorship, they have resorted crowdfunding. You can follow the link to their campaign on Indiegogo here. If the overall price of the project comes as an unpleasant surprise to you, you will be relieved to learn that it is now half the original sum stated, as the studio decided to split the pilot episode in two separate parts. In other words, we're almost there! Every little helps, and I do mean every. If you cannot donate, simply sharing the campaign is more than enough.
 If you are still having doubts as to why an animated series should cost so much, Studio Zmei have uploaded a video detailing the animation process, in order to be as transparent with their supporters as possible.

 The reason I so adamantly want this project to be brought to life is because I, too, ignored the mythology of my homeland for years before I found out how truly beautiful and intricate it is. Now, I feel like we have finally found the perfect project to represent Bulgaria in front of the entire world.

 Thank you for reading, and I hope you have a fantastic weekend.


Guardians of the Old Gods [Krushuna Falls]

Thursday, 15 June 2017
5561 Крушуна, България
 When we find ourselves standing in the midst of the sublime natural beauty of a great waterfall, we always stops dead in our tracks for what could be hours, in an attempt to take the grandeur of the scenery into our tragically limited human minds. Afterwards, reflex and desire kick in and we proceed to hanging our belongings (optional: and garments) on the nearest sign and running straight for that refreshing stream of water.

 "A mysterious waterfall by the path" is what the sign read. And, indeed, though they are the largest waterfall cascade in the country, Krushuna Falls are one of the better-kept secrets of Bulgaria. Tucked away in the travertines surrounding Lovech, they drop from a height of 20 metres, spilling like locks of silver hair along the way, thus creating even more waterfalls. The two available eco paths would take you no more than a couple of hours to cross each. However, I promise that you will want to set a couple of days aside for this, as you will be stopping every few minutes to marvel at the natural flora and fauna. You might find yourselves enchanted by the sight of numerous azure-blue pools, cascades adorned by colourful rainbow reflections, and the Maara Cave, the floor of which is always covered with a light mist. And for good reason: legends say that this a favourite drinking area for the old gods and it is guarded by a powerful zmey with seven sets of legs and wings.

 Bulgarian zmeys are reminiscent of their cousins the dragons, with a few differences. They are basilisk-like elemental spirits, capable of controlling the weather - they may choose to bring blissful rain in the midst of a drought, or they could create horrible storms to damage the crops. Each village had its own zmey to guard it, and they were revered by the locals for their powers. (Learn more about zmeys and other creatures of Bulgarian folklore from the TEDx talk of "The Golden Apple" here, available with English subtitles soon.)

 The guardian of Krushuna Falls was not always a zmey. He was as human as any of us once, a brave Thracian warrior searching for honour and glory. So mighty he was, that he dared challenge the gods to a battle, in order to prove that he was stronger than them. Though he fought long and hard, he was still a mere mortal and could not defeat the powerful deities. He lost the battle, but he won their admiration. Thus, they granted him immortality in the shape of a winged zmey and made him the guardian of their spring. The guardian ventures out of his cave at night. When he takes flight, an eerie mist covers the village streets and all of the animals suddenly go quiet.
 If you would love to visit Krushuna, but cannot make up your mind about where to stay, I highly recommend you give The Old House a try. It stands a mere few metres to the entrance of the pathways on one side, and you can even take a sneaky shortcut through the back gate. You have two accommodation options there: either book one or two of the rooms in the new house (the restroom is shared), or reserve the old house, for a more authentic atmosphere. The kitchen is shared by everyone, and is fully equipped with coffee (thank heavens!), sugar, salt, vodka *ahem*, and a fully functioning stove, fridge and microwave. If you're feeling a tad lazy, you can order yourself an enormous and oh-so-delicious pizza from restaurant Perfekto, whose menu is conveniently placed on the table.
 My favourite part about the old house doesn't come until nightfall, however. When all other creatures outside are asleep, the garden awakens with the blinking light of hundreds of fireflies dancing, whirling and twirling in the warm summer eves. This is why I always recommend visiting Krushuna towards the end of May or the beginning of June. It is truly a magical sight to behold.
 Finally, I urge you to stop by the "Mysterious waterfall by the path", which you will find along the second route, and shower beneath the icy stream. That way, you will absorb some of the strength of the water elementals. And, indeed, I have seldom felt more invigorated and ready to take on the world, than when I visited this magnificent place.