Real Time Reading, Uncategorized

Real-Time Reading – 11 October – Chapters 27 and 28

alejandra-quiroz-658Alejandra Quiroz

Chapter 27

Matthew met my eyes with difficulty. They were full of pain and a vulnerability that he’d carefully hidden before now. It broke my heart. 

It’s one thing to feed a vampire dinner. It’s another thing entirely to ask him to feed himself, apparently.

While Matthew and Diana stalk deer, we’ll talk a little about Matthew’s history–things we didn’t cover while Matthew was in Oxford. We’ll start with his names. Ysabeau says that Matthew’s full name is Matthew Gabriel Philippe Bertrand Sebastien de Clermont. Unsurprisingly, each of those names has a name and a history:

Matthew comes from Matthaios, the Greek form of the Hebrew name Mattityahu. It means “gift of Yahweh” and became common in English in the Middle Ages.

Gabriel also comes from the Hebrew Gavr’iel, meaning “God is my strong man.” Gabriel appears in both the Hebrew and Muslim traditions as an interpreter for the prophets.

Philippe is the French form of Philip, from the Greek Philippos. It means “lover of horses” and was the name of five kings of Macedonia.

Bertrand is the French form of an ancient Germanic name combining “beraht,” meaning “bright,” and “rand,” meaning “the rim of a shield” or “raven,” To my knowledge, Ysabeau indicates that Matthew will not answer to Bertrand, but does not indicate why.

Sebastian or Sebastien comes from the Latin Sebastianus, which means “revered.”

While Matthew is in Oxford, Diana engages in a bit of a rummage around his study and discovers an old toy belonging to Lucas. There are several good examples of medieval children’s toys on the internet, including here and here.

Dieu. Will you never stop surprising me?” Matthew’s head lifted, and he stared into the distance. His attention was caught by a young stag on the crest of the hill. The stag was cropping the grass, and the wind was blowing towards us, so he hadn’t yet picked up our scent.

Thank you, I breathed silently. It was a gift from the gods for the stag to appear like that. 

The deer, the bow, the hounds, the moon, and the hunt are all traditional symbols of the Goddess Diana. Traditionally, worshippers left offerings for Diana at the crossroads. In ancient mythology, Diana ruled over the open sky and fields and was associated with fertility. As previously mentioned, there are legends of the threefold Diana, a tripartite goddess similar to the maiden, mother, and crone of Celtic mythology. Throughout the AST, it’s clear that Diana has a relationship with the threefold goddess, and with deer in particular – if you’ve noticed, she can’t stand the taste of venison.

Chapter 28

“Gerbert. From Aurillac?” The Gerbert of Aurilac, the tenth century pope who reputedly owned a brass head that spoke oracles?”

Pope Silvester II, Gerbert of Aurillac, began his papacy in 999. An English monk–William of Malmesbury–wrote a pamphlet accusing Pope Silvester II of learning and using sorcery. In addition to the brass head, he was supposedly in possession of a book of spells stolen from a Spanish sorcerer. He is also associated with the legend of a demon named Meridiana, who foretold that the Devil would come for Gerbert if he ever said mass in Jerusalem.  The legend of Gerbert and Meridiana is recounted (…dodgily) here.

“I’m not a child, Diana, and my mother needn’t protect me from my own wife.”

Oh, kids. This is about the time that I want to take Matthew and shake him. Hard.

I cannot actually find much support for Matthew’s assertion that vampires mate like wolves. He makes it sound much more romantic than wolf mating, in which the male and female alpha animals bond and copulate. For the time being, I’ll say that, to the extent that this is true, it would have been REALLY IMPORTANT for Diana to know and, in my opinion, Matthew not telling her that beforehand is pretty unforgivable. We’ll talk about it more, I’m sure.

We skate rather quickly away from that to a bath and bundling, which rather obscures the erasure of Diana’s agency in the beginning of Matthew and Diana’s “marriage.” It’s actually a part of the book that I hope the TV adaptation significantly re-works.

“Speaking of the past,” Matthew drew the back of his hand down my arm, “what does the distinguished historian know about bundling?”

Bundling Bed describes bundling as one of several “premarital nonpenetrative sex customs” in Western culture. describes it as “a practice run at marital compatibility” that took place under the family roof. Unsurprisingly, the “non-penetrative part” wasn’t always observed. 

Tomorrow, we leave Sept-Tours against our will and head to La Pierre. If you have questions, thoughts, or comments, you can find us at @chamomilenclove on Twitter or at





Real Time Reading, Uncategorized

Real-Time Reading – 10 October – Chapter 26

felix-russell-saw-234903Felix Russell-Saw

Chapter 26

When the Range Rover entered the courtyard, I flew outside. For the first time in our relationship, Matthew didn’t beat me to the door. He was still straightening his long legs when my arms locked around his neck, my toes barely touching the ground.

“Don’t do that again,” I whispered, my eyes shut against sudden tears. 

In her post for 10 October and in the Real-Time Reading Companion, Deb tells us that she wrote a great deal of A Discovery of Witches while listening to David Berkeley.

This chapter is heavy on emotion, but light on material to start my usual research trails. In lieu of trivia, therefore, I present you with a few atmospheric autumnal playlists to accompany your wistful sighs.

Writer’s Bone – Nostalgia and Melancholy

41 Songs to Fall in Love with This Autumn

The 10 Best Autumn Songs for a Romantic Dinner

We’ll talk again tomorrow, when Diana takes Matthew hunting.



Real Time Reading, Uncategorized

Real-Time Reading – 9 October – Chapters 24-25

nicomiot-photographies-54150Nicomiot Photographies

For starters, LOOK AT THIS LITTLE NUGGET OF A DEER. I couldn’t resist its soft ears and squinty eyes.


Now, we hunt with Ysabeau.

Chapter 24

Turning to my computer, I typed notes about the imagery my anonymous author had used to describe nigredo, one of the dangerous steps in alchemical transformation.

Diana’s reading refers to the Magnum Opus, or Great Work, of alchemy — using prima materia to create the philosopher’s stone. There are four original phases: nigredo, blackening; albedo, whitening; citinitas, yellowing; and rubedo, reddening. Alchemists sometimes expanded the sequence to include other stages – seven, twelve, fourteen… There’s a short video on the Magnum Opus here. The four stages correspond to the four elements (earth, water, wind, and fire) and qualities (hot, cold, dry, moist). This excerpt from offers a good explanation:

The blackness symbolized the initial state of chaos or prima materia, prime matter. Out of this prime mater came everything. On this rest the theory of the conjunction, union, of things, such as the union of opposites, or male and female. Within this union of metals there was the assumption that the based metal dies and the more precious one was resurrected. Or it was thought to come back as a thing of many colors, sometimes described as a peacock’s tail. Eventually this hypothesis led to the adoption of the color of white which was considered to contain all colors. Here the first main goal of the process was reached, the metal had changed to its silver or moon state, which many alchemists considered the final goal; but it was not, because the metal still has to be elevated to its gold or sun state. The albedo is, allegorically speaking, the daybreak, but not until the rebedo is reached is there sunrise; this is the extra step required. Originally the transition from albedo to rebedo was accomplished by citrinitas that was later omitted. This was done in a very high intense fire. The red and white are the King and Queen who, at this stage, celebrate their “chemical wedding.”

Alchemists had their own system for recording elements and compounds which differed between practitioners. The Royal Society of Chemistry has a nice feature where you can explore the alchemical periodic table. Alchemists believed that all elements came from the same original substance but had varying degrees of purity. Gold was the purest, followed by silver. The theme of origins is strong in the AST and, unsurprisingly, the alchemical background of the story is an excellent tie-in.

In the paddock, Fiddat and Rakasa stood side by side, mirror images right down to the armchair-style saddles on their backs.

“Ysabeau,” I protested, “Georges put the wrong tack on Rakasa. I don’t ride sidesaddle.”

“Are you afraid to try?” Matthew’s mother looked at me appraisingly.

Ysabeau’s brief history of sidesaddle riding is correct — the original form of the saddle did not allow a rider to control her own horse. Women did not ride astride because it was “unbecoming.” There is some suggestion that riding astride threatens your virginity because it might break the hymen. In fact, Princess Anne of Bohemia is thought to have traveled to her wedding in the first sidesaddle precisely to preserve the Royal Hymen and Ensure Appropriate Provenance of the Royal Offspring. This is ridiculous. Should you need a laugh about ladyparts, I strongly and thoroughly recommend the excellent Adam Ruins Everything video on Hymens. In any case, the development of the sidesaddle with a hooked pommel (to support the leg) is credited to Catherine de Medici. This video provides an excellent tutorial on riding sidesaddle and how it works:

“Parsley. Ginger. Feverfew. Rosemary. Sage. Queen Anne’s lace seeds. Mugwort. Pennyroyal. Angelica. Rue. Tansy. Juniper root.” I pointed to each one in turn.

The following paragraph contains mild spoilers.

Marthe’s tea is a hodgepodge of herbal birth control methods. Before continuing with this discussion, I find it necessary to say that I am not an advocate for or against herbal birth control. Basically, kids, don’t come at me about the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of various and sundry methods of planning for or preventing pregnancy.

Here is a smattering of information about the herbs in Marthe’s tea:

Queen Anne’s lace: Originally used in India. When taken for seven days after unprotected intercourse, it prevents fertilized eggs from implanting in the uterus.

Rue: A natural abortifacent. Traditionally used by peoples in New Mexico.



Tansy: Encourages the body to shed uterine lining and promotes menstruation. If taken in larger doses, it may cause uterine bleeding as well as abortion.

Pennyroyal: A natural abortifacent belonging to the mint family. It’s also used to repel pests, like fleas and mosquitoes.

Rosemary: This one may surprise you, but making a rosemary tea could induce menstruation (the herb is an emmenagogue). If taken in large doses, rosemary also acts as an abortifacent.

The history of contraception is fascinating. As this Jezebel article notes, abortifacent herbs appear in texts dating to the 11th century. Mental Floss collected nine different forms of birth control used in the ancient world. Did you know that acacia gum acts as a spermicide? I didn’t. Prior to the nineteenth century, pregnancy wasn’t considered to “begin” until quickening or “ensoulment,” when a mother feels the fetus move inside the womb. Herbal contraceptives can be terrifying, and dangerous. Whatever Marthe’s intentions, I am inclined to agree with Sarah that she shouldn’t have given the tea to Diana without an explanation.

Chapter 25

In her post for Chapter 25, Deb talks about seals and shows a version of Matthew’s seal pressed into red wax. In the interests of time, I’ll save the discussion of the Knights of Lazarus for another time, like when we stumble upon more of them later on. You can hear the Daemons on Chapters 24-25 in Take 19!.

Tomorrow, Matthew comes home and we progress rapidly towards La Pierre.

See you then!






Real Time Reading, Uncategorized

Real-Time Reading – 8 October – Chapters 21-23

maxwell-young-199053.jpgMaxwell Young

Chapter 21

Silently I read the accompanying text, translating the Latin into English: “Turn to me with all your heart. Do not refuse me because I am dark and shadowed. The fire of the sun has altered me. The seas have encompassed me. The earth has been corrupted because of my work. Night fell over the earth when I sank into the miry deep, and my substance was hidden.”

As previously discussed, the Aurora Consurgens is a 15th c. alchemical treatise. In the late 20th century, the Jungian scholar Marie-Louise von Franz presented a translation in which she added commentary on analytical psychology to the text.aurora-6 Analytical psychology seeks to bring together the conscious and unconscious parts of the mind and asks patients to unify the deeper, darker elements of the mind with the persona they present to the outside world. Jung had theories about alchemy as a representation of the process of psychoanalysis and individuation. As for the text and meaning of the Aurora Consurgens, the internet had remarkably little to offer. If you’d like to read someone else’s thoughts on the manuscript and how it relates to the AST, Daemons did a long post on the significance of the Aurora Consurgens a while back.

“Mark 16, Psalms 55, and Deuteronomy 32, verse 40.” Matthew’s voice cut through the quiet, spouting references like an automated bible concordance.

Matthew’s cited verses, presented without further comment:

Mark 16

When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body.  Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb  and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?”
But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.
“Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him.  But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’”
 Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.

Psalms 55

Give ear to my prayer, O God; and hide not thyself from my supplication.
 Attend unto me, and hear me: I mourn in my complaint, and make a noise;
Because of the voice of the enemy, because of the oppression of the wicked: for they cast iniquity upon me, and in wrath they hate me.
My heart is sore pained within me: and the terrors of death are fallen upon me.
Fearfulness and trembling are come upon me, and horror hath overwhelmed me.
And I said, Oh that I had wings like a dove! for then would I fly away, and be at rest.
Lo, then would I wander far off, and remain in the wilderness. Selah.
I would hasten my escape from the windy storm and tempest.
Destroy, O Lord, and divide their tongues: for I have seen violence and strife in the city.
Day and night they go about it upon the walls thereof: mischief also and sorrow are in the midst of it.
Wickedness is in the midst thereof: deceit and guile depart not from her streets.
For it was not an enemy that reproached me; then I could have borne it: neither was it he that hated me that did magnify himself against me; then I would have hid myself from him:
But it was thou, a man mine equal, my guide, and mine acquaintance.
We took sweet counsel together, and walked unto the house of God in company.
Let death seize upon them, and let them go down quick into hell: for wickedness is in their dwellings, and among them.
As for me, I will call upon God; and the Lord shall save me.
Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud: and he shall hear my voice.
He hath delivered my soul in peace from the battle that was against me: for there were many with me.
God shall hear, and afflict them, even he that abideth of old. Selah. Because they have no changes, therefore they fear not God.
He hath put forth his hands against such as be at peace with him: he hath broken his covenant.
The words of his mouth were smoother than butter, but war was in his heart: his words were softer than oil, yet were they drawn swords.
Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.
But thou, O God, shalt bring them down into the pit of destruction: bloody and deceitful men shall not live out half their days; but I will trust in thee.

Deuteronomy 32:40

For I lift up my hand to heaven, and say, I live for ever.

Moments later a silver banner rose over the top of the building in the village and a bell began to toll. Men and women slowly came out of houses, bars, shops, and offices, their faces turned towards Sept-Tours, where the ancient symbol of eternity and rebirth snapped in the wind.

The word “ouroboros” means “tail devourer” in Greek and refers to the symbol of the snake, serpent, or dragon eating its own tail. It represents creation, destruction, rebirth, and renewal. In alchemy, the ouroboros represents the fusion of opposites and the transcendance of duality.  It’s a symbol that speaks Image result for symbolism ouroborospowerfully to vampires, but also to Matthew and Diana. If you’re so inclined, the internet would be happy to sell you a vast quantity of ouroboros-themed jewelry.


Chapter 22

Nothing but the color red appeared at first. Then the red took on a texture, strands of red burnished here and there with gold and silver. The texture became a thing–hair, Sarah’s hair. My fingers caught the strap of a backpack from my shoulder, and I dropped my lunch box on the lfoor o fthe family room with the same officious clatter as my father when he dropped his briefcase by the door.

In Chapter 22, as Matthew threatens to leave and give up on Diana, she begins to have visions. It’s pretty clear to me that the visions have a theme–loss. Specifically, the loss of love and family. I don’t know whether vision symbolism is related to dream symbolism, but I thought it’d be fun to play with the things that Diana sees as she goes in and out of her visions. All of these snippets come from and

Armor: To see armor indicates insecurity. You are worried about your well being.

Bow and Arrow: A combination of male and female energies, anger, aggression, tension,

Leaves: Change

Red: Negativity, negative emotions, negative situations

Tears: Emotional catharsis or cleansing, loss

Chapter 23

Now that he’d left, I was terribly aware of his absence. As I sat on the roof of the watchtower, my tears softened my determination to fight for him. Soon there was water everywhere. I was sitting in a puddle of it, and the level just kept rising.

It wasn’t raining, despite the cloudy skies.

The water was coming out of me.

Despite my research, it would appear that the concepts of witchfire, witchwind, and witchwater are all products of Deb’s imagination. I cannot find any reference to myths about those three powers, but I’d be curious if someone else did.

As Ysabeau soothes Diana, she begins to tell him the story of how Matthew was made. She mentions that Matthew was born around the time of Clovis, the Merovingian king who ruled over the area spanning from Belgium and Northwest France to Gaul. Upon his death, Clovis’s kingdom was divided amongst his four sons. Clovis is remembered for his conversion to Christianity.

I cannot find any reference to a fever or plague taking hold in the Auvergne in 536, but disease was common enough that I’m sure it doesn’t take much of a stretch to think of something that would have carried away Blanca and Lucas. Curious about medieval diseases? Ordinarily, I’m not — but the idea of the King’s Evil and Water Elf Disease was too juicy to pass up. Medieval people died of many, many different diseases–influenza, leprosy, the plague, diphtheria, measles–most due to a combination of poor sanitation and poor nutrition. I do not recommend Googling symptoms, as the photos are horrid.

“Manjasang?” I tried to roll the syllables around my mouth as Ysabeau had.

Manjasang is a real Occitan word, though I haven’t turned up many references outside of the AST. If you have any, I’m all ears.

For the curious, Deb’s post on Chapter 21 is here. The daemons talk Chapters 21-25 in Take 19!

We’ll be back tomorrow with Chapter 24. As always, you can reach us at and at chamomilenclove on Twitter.

Until then,