Real Time Reading

Shadow of Night Real-Time Reading – 18-22 January – Chapters 22-23

unsplash-logoJose Llamas

After a brief hiatus, we’re ready to roll right into Chapters 22-23 of Shadow of Night — we meet the Rede, have a run-in with Hubbard, and spend a little time with our good friend Mary Sidney.

“Are there any men among the Rede, Goody Alsop?” I asked, taking her elbow.

“Only a handful remain. All the young wizards have gone off to university to study natural philosophy.”

During the Renaissance, “natural philosophy” encompassed much of what we consider the physical sciences–physics, geology, biology, etc.–as well as theological and philosophical questions about the nature of the universe. Often described as the link between Aristotelian models of theoretical science and the experimentation of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the study of natural philosophy in universities arose at a time when society demanded a greater number of educated citizens to fill its bureaucracies and administrative posts. Between 1500 and 1625, the number of universities in Europe nearly doubled. Oxford and Cambridge came into being in the 11th century, but the two universities established new colleges during the Renaissance to cope with the influx of students. Brasenose, Christ Church, Corpus Christi, Jesus, St. John’s, and Trinity Colleges were all established at Oxford in the 16th century. Notably, the Renaissance saw a change in the nature of scholarship at universities — students and professors began to add to the body of literature with commentaries and histories of their own rather than relying on classical texts. Should you be interested in learning more about the Renaissance from Oxford faculty and friends, has you covered.

“Sex and dominance. It’s what modern humans think vampire relationships are all about,” I said. “Their stories are full of crazed, alpha-male vampires throwing women over their shoulders before dragging them off for dinner and a date.”

While people love to talk about the parallels between A Discovery of Witches and Twilight, our friend Jean at Daemons Discuss is right — the romantic vampire image dates to the 19th century and the height of the Victorian period. While there’s certainly debate about how frank Victorians were (or could be) about their sex lives, much of the evidence we have from the literature of the upper classes suggests that sex was taboo. While the idea of Victorians covering “sexy” table legs is a myth, there is evidence from the testimony of Victorians (letters, diaries, etc.) that people were “emotionally frigid” and “factually uninformed” about sex. The concern over syphilis also led to a bit of paranoia about sexual contact and masturbation and various and sundry desires of the flesh.

Lord Byron, by Richard Westall (1813)

Enter John Polidori’s The Vampyre (1819) and Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897) — stories that lay the groundwork for the modern vampire myth. Where Stoker’s Dracula is a ghoulish creature of horror, Polidori’s vampire, Lord Ruthven, was a broody, handsome aristocrat based on his friend, Lord Byron. In contrast to Stoker’s feral, skulking predator, Polidori’s vampire is elegant, magnetic, and civilized. The vampire, Lord Ruthven, seduces and plans to wed the sister of the narrator of The Vampyre; he is charming, intelligent, irresistible, and dangerous. The Public Domain Review published this fascinating article on how The Vampyre may represent a fictionalized version of Polidori’s relationship with Lord Byron, which is well worth your time.

There’s some interesting psychological writing on the romantic attraction of the vampire myth and its resurgence in the last twenty years (note, I take issue with the framing of this article as “Why Women Love Vampires.” I will withhold my opinion on the underlying research, but I think it’s fair to say that male-identifying people are pretty into vamps, too). From a literary perspective, I think modern vampires tap into the desire to have conversations about big ideas (eternity, morals, sexuality, identity, the discovery of the self, civilization v. barbarism) in the context of a romantic, idealized partner.

If you haven’t quite quenched your craving for vampire fiction, Barnes and Noble has a list of the 10 Best Vampire Novels No One Has Read. AbeBooks also has a list of vampire books across a range of genres and A Love So True has a great list of vampire films you might like to check out, including the Tom Hiddleston/Tilda Swinton film Only Lovers Left Alive.

“‘Tis a pity she was not here when the Armada came,” Elizabeth said.

“So it’s true? The famous ‘English wind” that blew the Spanish ships away from England’s shores was raised by witches?”

In May 1588, King Philip II of Spain sent 132 vessels to attack Elizabeth I. Despite years of planning, the invasion of England failed — largely because of the weather. The fleet, or Armada, failed to pick up Philip II’s army in the Netherlands and then fled north to avoid a storm. The Spanish fleet attempted to head home via Scotland and the western coast of Ireland, but it hit violent weather that killed some 6,000 sailors. You can learn more about the progress of the Armada from NASA. Sadly, they don’t mention any of the English wind- and waterwitches that helped sink Spain’s hopes.

“Just trying to figure somehting out,” Matthew said, sliding the paper away.

“Something genetic?” The X’s and O’s reminded me of biology and Gregor Mendel’s peas.

Gregor Mendel, an Austrian monk, published his “Experiments on Plant Hybridization” in 1865 after he spent nearly ten years breeding and studying pea plants to track the inheritance of various traits, like seed shape, flower shape, and plant height. Sadly, his work wasn’t widely publicized and his attempts to replicate his experiments with hawkweed failed — apparently, hawkweed genetics are more complicated than those of your average pea plant. Even so, Mendel’s work on genetics was more-or-less correct, if simplistic. You can learn more about Mendel’s method in this TedEd talk.

You could also learn more about genetics from the fabulous lecture Dr. Shelli Carter gave at All Souls Con 2018. The videos are live (and free!) here.

We spent a pleasant afternoon discussing new ways to make the arbor Dianae, but it was over all too soon.

The arbor Dianae is a dendritic amalgam of crystallized silver created when you place silvery and mercury in nitric acid. You can watch one grow in this video. As a part of the alchemical process, Diana’s Tree was thought to advance the pursuit of precious metals derived from non-precious sources. In Mary Sidney’s time, the experiment would require forty days — Deb posted about the correlation between the forty days required to produce Diana’s tree and the forty days between the beginning and end of A Discovery of Witches in her Shadow of Night Real-Time Reading post.

[Marjorie] told me that the herbs were important to her magic — agrimony to break enchantments, lacy feverfew with the white and yellow flowers still attached for protection, the sturdy stems of rosemary with their glaucous leaves for purification and clarity.

We haven’t had an herbal digression for a while, so here goes:

Agrimony: Associated with thankfulness and warding off evil spells.

Feverfew: Used for hay fever, headaches, a relative of chamomile.

Rosemary: Associated with commitment, fidelity, intellect, constancy. Used as an astringent and tonic.

Elm: Inner strength, intuition. Tonic and astringent.

Adder’s tongue: Associated with jealousy, used to treat wounds and skin ulcers.

Boneset: Used as a stimulant and febrifuge (meaning that it induces sweating and thereby breaks fevers).

Groundsel: Symbolic of health and healing, traditionally used to heal illness of the stomach.

We talked about all of the symbolism in Chapter 23 in Episode 30 – The Symbolism Buffet, so I won’t go any farther for now. We’ll pick up with Matthew and Diana when they visit the unfortunate Doctor Dee on Saturday, 26 January. Lucky for you, that’s also when we’ll do our live tweet of Episode 1×02 of A Discovery of Witches TV. Join us at 1pm PST/4pm EST/9pm GMT using the hashtag #ccalchemy — it’ll be great fun.

In the meantime, you can always find us on our Facebook group, the Chamomile & Clove Clovers or via e-mail at Give us a shout — we love hearing from you.



adowtv, Podcast, TV Show News

ADOW TV 1×01 – Episode 37 – Interiority Spiders

The wait is finally over! A Discovery of Witches TV is LIVE in the United States and Canada! Thank you to everyone who joined us for our inaugural live tweet — we’re so excited to have shared the premiere with you tonight.

Because we know you CAN’T WAIT to talk about this phenomenal episode, we’re giving you our first episode of TV coverage RIGHT THIS MINUTE.

Download the episode here.


As we mentioned in the episode, you can learn more about All Souls Con by visiting If you’re inclined to become a Clover, you can join our Facebook group at 

Finally, if you’re interested, you can support us on Patreon for $1 a month. As a Clover, you’ll receive a personalized postcard from us and access to any special content we produce in the coming months. We’re so incredibly grateful for your support and can’t wait to keep talking about these incredible characters in the weeks to come.



Cait and Jen


Episode 36 – 100% Dad

unsplash-logoVincent van Zalinge

Happy new episode day, Clovers!

In this episode, we’re covering Chapters 37-39 of Shadow of Night — the wonderful (STEPHEN), magical (CORRA), and heartbreaking (JACK) moments that bring us one step closer to the end of this complicated book.

Download this week’s episode here.

If you’d like to get involved with our other fans, take our polls, and give your input about things like scheduling live tweets, head over to our Facebook group. You can also follow us on Twitter at @chamomilenclove, e-mail us at, or become a patron on Patreon.

As of today, we’re only THREE SLEEPS AND A WAKE UP from the U.S. and Canada premiere of A Discovery of Witches TV. That means we’re only four days from our live tweet of Episode 1×01 and the beginning of a whole year of ADOWTV fun.

Enjoy the episode and happy Sunday!


Cait and Jen

Real Time Reading

Shadow of Night Real-Time Reading – 12 January – Chapter 20


Phoebe found the quiet at Sotheby’s Bond Street offices unsettling this Tuesday night. Though she’d been working at the London auction house for two weeks, she was still not accustomed to the building.

Sotheby’s, founded 1744, is the second-oldest international auction house in continuous operation (or maybe the fourth?). It does approximately $2 billion in sales annually and serves as a clearing house for fine and decorative art, jewelry, real estate, and collectibles.

The London office of the auction house moved to Bond Street in 1917 — and there it remains. The auction house began by selling off the great libraries of the deceased — including the library of the Earl of Pembroke. The move to Bond Street, the hub of the London art world, encouraged the owners of Sotheby’s to expand their coinnoiseurship and expertise into the realm of fine art. Sotheby’s has a history of selling Hilliard miniatures — this lovely portrait of a noblewoman sold in 2010 for 121,250 GBP.

“Where is Sylvia?” The blue eyes narrowed.

“At the ballet. Coppelia, I believe.”

The ballet Coppelia tells the story of Franz, Swanhilda, and the mysterious “daughter” of Dr. Coppelius, who is trying to animate a doll in a non-creepy way. Right. It’s presented as a comedy, but it definitely has some sinister undertones. Because Jen and I are both hopeless balletomanes, I can’t help but give you the Bolshoi’s delightful Dance of the Hours and the Act III female variation danced by Natalia Osipova.

As soon as the click sounded, Whitmore pushed his way through. He was dressed for a club in Soho, with his black jeans, vintage gray U2 t-shirt, and a ridiculous pair of high-top Converse trainers (also gray).

Today, for a change in programming, I present you with a build-your-own Marcus outfit kit.

  • A vintage U2 band tee in gray ($25) on Poshmark (likely from the ZOO tour)
  • Cait’s actual, factual no-fail black jeans ($49.97) at GAP
  • Charcoal Chuck Taylor All Star High-Tops ($43.64) on Amazon
  • Leather cord necklace ($7.49) on Amazon (teeth of yellow fever victims NOT included). You could, however, add one of these guys.

“That’s the best offer I’ve had in some time.” Whitmore’s mouth twitched. “If we’re going to proceed according to Hoyle, though, I think you should call me Marcus.”

Edmond Hoyle, 1672-1769, wrote the definitive eighteenth century rules for how to play cards. The phrase “according to Hoyle” denotes doing something according to accepted standards or rules. He wrote extensively on the laws of whist, a game you might recognize from the pages of Austen. In fact, Hoyle’s book on whist became so definitive that his name is synonymous with doing things by-the-book — his imitators put his name on rule books for games (like poker) that weren’t even invented during his lifetime.

As you well know, Phoebe and Marcus have plenty more to tell us in Time’s Convert. We won’t say more…. yet.

If you like what we do, you can support us on Patreon to off-set our podcast hosting costs. You can also join our Facebook group, the Chamomile & Clove Clovers, or e-mail us at If you’re anxious for the premiere of A Discovery of Witches TV, please consider yourselves invited to our live tweet on 1/17 at 9pm. Use the hashtag #ccalchemy and make merry.

Until 18 January and Chapter 22,


Real Time Reading

Shadow of Night Real-Time Reading – 7 January – Chapter 19

unsplash-logoKazi Faiz Ahmed Jeem

Okay. This is the part where I admit that the calendar for the #RealTimeReading2018 (er, 2019?) of Shadow of Night confused me a bit — this chapter should have posted on 7 January, but I thought it was 12 January. That’s Chapter 20, and I am technically behind. Mea culpa.

Anyways. It’s time to meet Annie and Susanna and ask some big questions about Diana’s magic. Are you ready?

“I wish his good humor was more reliable. Matthew is mercurial these days. He’s possessive one moment and ignores me as if I were a piece of furniture the next.”

The etymology of the word “mercurial” indicates that it came into usage in the 14th century and derives form the Latin Mercurialis, “pertaining to the god Mercury, or having the form or qualities attributed to Mercury.” It means, “lively, volatile, or prone to quick changes of mood.” Interestingly, Diana’s modern use of the word to describe Matthew as “highly changeable” is slightly anachronistic — the English language apparently didn’t regularly apply the word to people until the 17th century.

Liquid mercury

Mercury (Hermes) was the messenger of the gods and the god of trade, merchants, commerce, roads, and thieves. Based on our enlightened and fascinating conversation about 16th century venereal diseases, you might recall that we used to treat all kinds of naughty-part nasty things with mercury (Hg). Mercury is highly mobile and very shiny and it takes its name from the planet Mercury, the fastest moving planet in the solar system. It’s highly toxic, but also really useful for its ability to conduct electricity. Would you like to know where we get mercury? Cinnabar. Hm. More on that later.

Mary and I had been deep in conversation about the images in a collection of alchemical texts known as the Pretiosa Margarita Novella — the New Pearl of Great Price.

Last summer, when we attended All Souls Con at the Science History Institute in Philadelphia, I wish I’d known that they keep a copy of Pretiosa Margarita Novella in their rare book room. There are only six known complete manuscripts of this alchemical treatise surviving in the present day and, lucky for us, two of them are digitized: the Science History Institute copy and the copy belonging to the Getty Alchemy Collection.

The Pretiosa Margarita Novella presents arguments for and against alchemy and cites to a number of classical sources. If you wanted your own copy, you could purchase it from for $5,926.03 (used).

“An ancient specimen,” Henry said proudly. “It was among my curiosities, and I wanted you to have it. The intaglio is of the goddess Diana, you see.”

The All Souls Trilogy is rich with descriptions of the decorative arts–from furniture to portraits to jewelry–and Henry’s miniatures are no exception. We’ll skip the Hilliard bits, which we’ve already discussed, and move into a quick talk about intaglio jewelry. Intaglio refers to a decorative technique that is the opposite of cameo work — rather than creating a raised image on a decorative surface, the artist creates a recessed design, like a mold. Intaglio designs often appear on precious gems — they were a popular luxury art form in ancient times and experienced a renaissance during, well, the Renaissance.

Intaglio brooch from the Met Museum

The iconography of intaglio carvings often depicts gods, goddesses, and mythological scenes, so Henry’s Diana intaglio makes sense. There is a lovely example of a Diana intaglio in carnelian at The Jewellery Editor.

“I didn’t get the egg into the bowl, Mistress Norman,” I apologized. “The spells didn’t work.”

The still-wet chick set up a protest, one indignant peep after another.”

This is neither magical, nor directly on point, but I thought it was interesting — the “chicken and egg” causality dilemma first arose in Plutarch’s 1st century CE essay, “The Symposiacs.” The dilemma poses the question of origins and infinite sequences and has been solved, at least scientifically, by evolutionary biology. The answer is that the egg came first, laid by a not-quite-chicken. A dinosaur laid an egg that hatched a very ugly, toothy chicken. Then that toothy chicken laid another egg, which eventually laid its own eggs, and on and on. Forbes makes the following highly-philosophical point:

At what point did it become a chicken? It still isn’t a chicken, remember? There is no such thing as a chicken.

The eggs you buy at the store come from a small dinosaur that is still in the process of becoming what it will eventually become. It is the first of its kind. It is the last of its kind. Its children will not be chickens, any more than it is.

You heard it here, folks. There’s no such thing as a chicken. Only small dinosaurs capable of producing the base ingredient in custards, souffles, and omelettes.

If you like what we do, you can support us on Patreon to off-set our podcast hosting costs. You can also join our Facebook group, the Chamomile & Clove Clovers, or e-mail us at If you’re anxious for the premiere of A Discovery of Witches TV, please consider yourselves invited to our live tweet on 1/17 at 9pm. Use the hashtag #ccalchemy and make merry.

Until tomorrow, and Chapter 20,