It’s Sunday and we have some bright, fresh new content for you. It’s time to pour yourself your weekend beverage of choice, putter in the garden or pull out some knitting, gather the Pod Pets, and dive in to Chapters 3-4 of Book of Life. Be prepared to buckle up, though, because it’s time to talk about Worst Baldwin and Sweetest Gallowglass and the ever-unfolding tragedy of Philippe. We hope you enjoy it!
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It’s been a while, but we’re back to our chapter-by-chapter discussion of the All Souls Trilogy — and we’re (suddenly, miraculously, unbelievably) ready to discuss Chapters 1-2 of Book of Life! If you’d like to join in the fun, please check out our Reading and Release Schedule and grab your copy of Book of Life — we’ll be here for a while. In the meantime…
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Because “unicorn horn” was so precious, there were lots of counterfeit items–the blog Early Modern Medicine reports that, in order to test the authenticity of a suspect horn, one should pass a spider over it. If the spider survived, you’d been had. If the spider exploded, you had the real thing. Good to know.
It’s an automaton, Jack,” Matthew said, picking the thing up. When he did, the stag’s head sprang open, revealing the hollow chamber within. “This one is meant to run down the emperor’s dinner table. When it stops, the person closest must drink from the stag’s neck.
In the Real-Time Reading Companion, Deb notes that the automaton Rudolf sends Diana is based on this one, which you can see on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.
Rudolf’s collection survived the Thirty Years’ War by virtue of the fact that part of it was moved to Vienna, where it’s still on display.
“There goes Sigismund,” Gallowglass said, bending close to my ear. The noise from the bells was deafening, and I could barely hear him. When I looked at him in confusion, he pointed up, to a golden grille on the adjacent steeple. “Sigismund. The big bell. That’s how you know you’re in Prague.”
The Sigismund Bell hangs at the top of St. Vitus’ Cathedral in Prague. The church took over 600 years to complete—the last section was only finished in the 20th century. The construction of the Gothic cathedral ceased as a consequence of the Hussite Wars and the project was not completed until the millennial anniversary of Wenceslas I, Duke of Bohemia, in the 1930s. The popular history tells us that when the bell Sigismund was finished, no one knew how to lift the massive bell into the tower. Naturally, the princess devised a solution—by making a pulley of her own hair to lift the bell into place. Ouch. You can hear Sigismund’s peals in the video below. You can learn more about the architecture of St. Vitus (and the work of one Matthew of Arras, French architect (hmmm)) here.
Kelley nodded. “He came when Dee was still in Prague, asking questions about the book and nosing about in my business. Rudolf let him enjoy one of the witches from the Old Town—a seventeen-year-old girl and very pretty, with rosy hair and blue eyes just like your wife. No one has seen her since. But there was a very fine fire that Walpurgis Night. Gerbert was given the honor of lighting it.” Kelley shifted his eyes to me. “I wonder if we will have a fire again this year?”
Walpurgis Night is a Northern European festival celebrating St. Walpurga that takes place on 30 April-1 May. While the festival has its roots in pagan rituals welcoming the spring and summer, St. Walpurga is remembered for denouncing sorcery and witchcraft. Traditionally, people believed that Walpurgis Night was the last night of the year that a witch could cast powerful spells before the autumn. In sixteenth century Ireland, people slaughtered hares on 30 April believing that they were cow-stealing witches in disguise. In Germany, people believed that witches roamed abroad on Walpurgis Night to participate in a great gathering on top of the Blocksberg mountains. Though I tried, I couldn’t find anything on whether people actually engaged in witch-hunting — but they definitely lit bonfires to ward off sorcery and spells.
After days of careful negotiation, Matthew was able to arrange a visit to Rabbi Judah Loew. To make room for it, Gallowglass had to cancel my upcoming appointments at court, citing illness.
The name Maharal is a Hebrew acronym for Moreinu ha-Rav Loew, or “Our Teacher Rabbi Loew.” Legend has it that the Maharal used his knowledge of the Kabbala to animate the golem of Prague, a creature raised to protect the Jewish community from harm. According to this article from the New York Times, the symbolism of the golem re-emerges every so often—especially in times of trouble and uncertainty. To this day, people honor the legacy of Rabbi Loew by leaving stones on his grave in the Jewish cemetery of Old Town Prague.
We’ll pick up again with Matthew and Diana as they hunt with Emperor Rudolf on 8 April. In the meantime, be sure to catch A Discovery of Witches TV on BBC America and AMC TV when it premieres at 9pm on Sunday, 7 April! You can also vote in the last couple rounds of A Discovery of Witches TV March Madness between now and Sunday — check out our Twitter profile (@chamomilenclove) or our Facebook page to participate.
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