Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Why Owls at Halloween?

Around the world, people have associated owls with mystery, witchcraft and even death. After all, they are creatures of the night, and we humans are inherently fearful of the dark: what we cannot see could hurt us.

For example, many African tribal names for owls translate as “witchbird.” And the stark white barn owl is often called “ghost owl.”

Many cultures have hunted owls to rid their villages of evil or death, but also to reap medicinal ingredients. Eating owl eyes was believed to offer night vision, raw owl eggs were thought to cure alcoholism, boiled owl fat was said to treat sores and owl soup was a folk remedy for whooping cough. Owl hearts were revered as offering strength for battles, curing epilepsy and as a truth serum.

Speaking of truth, humans benefit greatly from having owls around us alive, especially barn owls, who like to live in, yes, barns. That’s where they help farmers by hunting pests. One barn owl can eat 1,200 mice annually in just one field. What a great pesticide – it’s free and doesn’t put chemicals on the food that we eat!

You can meet our gorgeous barn owl, George, our raven, Hera, and other nocturnal creatures at Tales of Hallows' Eve - Sat., Oct. 29! With stories by Edgar Allen Poe and Edward Gorey told live by Victorian characters, puppet shows, bobbing for hanging apples and making pumpkin ice cream. Discovering the holiday’s origins as you do special jack-o’-lantern and puppet crafts!
4 pm-8 pm $2. All children age 4 and under and all Museum members: free!

Photo: High Desert Museum barn owl by Jennifer Loring

Friday, October 21, 2011

Hallow's Eve: Rooted in Nature, Culture

This Halloween, as kids roam the neighborhood dressed as Darth Vader or Disney princesses, the holiday's roots in nature and culture may not be so evident.

Here's one fun way to discover those cool origins: the Museum's Tales of Hallows’ Eve on Saturday, October 29.

Live, mysterious raptors of the night appear as you experience the gripping tales of Edgar Allen Poe and Edward Gorey and travel back to the 1880s inside the Museum. You'll meet ravens and owls close up and learn why these and other animals are linked to Hallow’s Eve.

Victorian characters from the frontier will appear along with puppet shows, puppet making and bobbing for hanging apples. You can also make pumpkin ice cream and discover the origins of jack-o'-lanterns as you do a special jack-o’-lantern craft.
4 pm-8 pm
Museum members and all children age 4 and younger, free!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Embracing the Harvest Spirit

For millennia, people have celebrated the earth’s bounty in fall, preparing for the cold, dark winter ahead. Today we have brightly lit supermarkets stocked all year long, but that ancient urge to celebrate the autumn harvest endures.

Every weekend at the Museum’s 1904 ranch cabin, we see all ages indulging that spirit. Kids love getting their hands dirty, digging potatoes in our ranch garden, crosscut sawing, and helping at our 100-year-old sawmill. They do it all without much prompting from the homesteaders portrayed live there.

Parents are always telling us they are delighted to see their kids away from video games, and actually having fun doing chores, helping the homesteaders sweep the porch and tend to the chickens.

On weekends throughout the fall, the settlers will be cooking over their wood stove, chatting about the new technology in town (the telephone, automobile, electricity), the suffragette movement and speculating on what winter will bring. See you there!

Characters are at the ranch weekends, 11am – 3 pm, weather permitting, and on weekdays in the Hall of Exploration and Settlement.)
Photo by Lee Schaefer, High Desert Museum volunteer