Friday, 22 May 2009

Day 68- Sissy's Basket

This was a few days before the Rollas, (our gypsy family from Day 53) left for Tunisia. I was rather surprised to see Walter and even more so when he spoke in a woman's voice, going "Hurry, hurry Sans!".

I stared at him holding this ridiculously large box, wondering why everyone always address me with an exclamation mark behind my name and also not quite believing my ears . For apart from the falsetto Walter was using, I swear I also heard the strumming of a sitar from inside the box. I was just about to say "What the.." when suddenly out pop the head of a very harried RoSaNna.

"Sans! Please! Weave me a basket quick!" RoSaNna demanded politely. "Make it in the shape of a barrel, no taller than 2 1/4". The round base should be no wider than 1 1/4" wide. Now the basket must have a lid. Make it wider than the top, at about 1 3/4" in diameter. Make sure you use jute, Now! Sans! Chop chop!"

Ahh, so that wasn't Walter in a strange voice, it was RoSaNna in her usua..and before I could finish that thought, RoSaNna was hurrying me again.

I quickly gathered some raw material and started "weaving". RoSaNna had warned that I should not be too ambitious as we did not have enough time (?!). " Don't bother following the link Sylvia gave Mercedes in her "I Made A Basket" post. And DEFINITELY nothing as fancy as my borsine!! We simply have no time!"

With trembling hands, I first cut a hole in the plastic candy barrel I found. Amazingly, the barrel fits RoSaNna's requirements to a T. I then smeared Tiger glue on the barrel and started winding jute strings around it. I did the same with my favourite round material, the inside of a cap (see white round disc) for the lid.

In less than an hour, I passed the completed basket to RoSaNna, made exactly to her requirements.
I then witnessed the most amazing transformation. Right before my eyes, I saw Walter silently let his hair down from his turban, wordlessly change his pink turban into a white one and then quietly adorn his ears with 2 gold loops and his neck with snake necklaces made from beads and shells.

I tell you, these Rollas, they are just full of surprises for when he next appeared, he had changed from Walter (left pic )to the Performer (right pic)!

People started gathering around them. The Performer looked around and found a satisfactory location. He then set his pots and baskets about him with the help from RoSaNna. He sat cross-legged on the box in front of the closed basket. RoSaNna removed the lid of the basket, after the Performer began the 1st few notes on a flute-like instrument.

It was really quite a terrible tune. His flute was obviously wrong or broken or both and I was thinking I must make him a better one when suddenly, as if drawn by the tune, something emerges from the basket.

My goodness, RoSaNna has acquired an Indian Cobra for their "tamasha" or the "Snake Charmer's Act".

This is how it usually goes: the reptile sways to and fro in time with the musician's tune, apparently hypnotised. The snake never strikes, and the charmer may go as far as kissing the creature on the head. This is when amazed onlookers will throw coins and notes to the successful performer. Eventually, as if on cue, the snake returns to its container, the charmer replaces the lid, and he gathers up his earnings.

Sometimes, for added thrills and squeals, the charmer may allow the animal to slither out of the basket and slowly move toward the audience. Using a stick or hook, an assistant, in this case, RoSaNna, lures the animal

onto her bosoms and then she walks around, daring her audience to touch the snake. Almost no one does. This usually draws the loudest applause for who will not be impressed by the lady's courage. Once they have earned all they can from their current viewers, they move on to perform somewhere else. And that is why the Rollas were in such a bad hurry for they were due for their next engagement in Tunisia!

A few facts about snake charming: The cobra standing erect and extending the hood is a normal defensive reaction and simply indicates the snake's startled reaction to losing its darkened environment. That's why the animal is usually kept in a basket with a lid and it is opened only just after the flute is played. Charmers may even wave their instrument over the opening (in such a way as to not arouse audience attention) in order to prompt the creature to emerge. As for the snake's swaying movement, it is actually a reaction to the movement of the performer's instrument and sometimes the tapping of his foot. The animal cannot actually hear the tune being played, though it can perhaps feel some of the sound vibrations as well as those from any tapping by the charmer. That was why RoSaNna was strumming her sitar. She was training the snake to get used to the vibrations. The serpent's evident reluctance to attack is explained by its timid nature; most snakes prefer to scare off possible predators rather than fight them. Most snake charmers reduce the chances of a bite even further by sitting just out of striking range (about one-third of a cobra's body length). Even kissing the creature is not too dangerous, as cobras are incapable of attacking things above them. Though some claim that snake charmers drug the animals, this is rare, if it occurs at all. In addition, many snake charmers learn to read their animals and can tell when they are ready to strike. In a worst-case scenario, most snake charmers know at least rudimentary methods of treating snakebite. The return to its container is caused by the snake charmer stopping his waving motion. Even the reptile's basket plays a part, as it keeps the snake's blood temperature down and the animal groggy.This explains the very specific requirements by RoSaNna.

Anyway, the Rollas and their tamasha was a huge hit in Tunisia. Picture below was taken in 1899 during one of their acts.

Footnote: I received this beautiful mouth blown glass snake (measuring an impressive 2 3/4" long when coiled) in the big yellow box today. It was from dear Rosanna . It came as a pendant and as I was born in the year of the snake, she had thought it would suit me. There was also a monogrammed card in which Rosanna had written "...Snakes are a curious thing...but they are also thought to be luck bringers that's why I am sending it to you. Good luck, my friend."

Rosanna, I really really love Sissy! I have named her so for obvious reasons and she will feature as a major animal next to Camel and Elephant in the palace. Thank you, my friend ! Sssssssssssssssssssssssss

For those of you interested in a career as a snake charmer, you can go to to find out how. The 4 ingredients you must have are: Snake, Snake-charming flute, Basket and last but not least, Magic. Good luck!


Texas Belle said...

I love that I always learn so much when I visit your blog! You did a great job with that basket - it looks very realistic!

Sans said...

Thank you Belle :). Yours is one of those I checked even when I don't get notification of a new post!!

I think tonight I am going to glue some more jute on the inside for more realism. Just realised from the pics above that you can actually see a bit of it on photos.

Meli said...

Sans your are amazing!!!! Great story and what a well made basket!!!!
I enjoy reading your blog.
Mini hugs

Tallulah~Belle said...

You crack me up :-) Love the snake basket !

I am making some sacred lotus because of got me thinking so much about India :-)

Sans said...

Meli, thank you :)! I hope to make Walt,the snake charmer a proper gourd flute soon!

JAYNE!*screams!!!!!!! Its Great to see you again!!! Sacred lotus! My goodness but what a great name! Maybe you should think about a holiday in India huh? Or Pakistan, better yet, Sri Lanka where lotus are abound. Sri Lanka is also really pretty although I have not been there, I have heard a lot about its beauty.

Tallulah~Belle said...

Hey you

Check out my blog and you'll see the lotus you caused me to make :-)

I'd love to visit all of that part of the day sigh !

Sans said...

Jayne! Sissy loves those Sacred Lotuses

Pubdoll said...

Another great story with lots of interesting information! You must be doing quite a lot of background search!
Love the basket, it looks very realistic!

Sans said...

Thank you Helene! Just finished touching up a bit of the inside (basket) and may post pics later in the Projects Have I become Obsessive-Compulsive or is this what it means to be a miniaturist?

rosanna said...

Hi Sans, Obsession IS a part of being miniaturist.
A very big applause for the way you used Sissy, I had not thought of such a possibility. I have some photos to send to you, may be they will be of some utility. Hugs Rosanna

Hertta said...

What a magical story ; )
~ Helena & "Hertta" ~

Sans said...

WOOOOHOOO, my gal is back :)! Tunisia is good, I believe? I definitely want to see your pictures, Rosanna :). Millions of giant hugs ! Everyone has missed you.

Helena, magic and fantasy is the part I like best about my palace. I am glad you enjoyed them too.

adelesspookyart said...

Very Nice Work and Wonderful Story...


Sans said...

Thank you, Adele. So is your pet cemetery. Good luck to you on your ebay listing :)!

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