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Shadow of Night Real-Time Reading – 24 March – 4 April – Chapters 28 and 29

It’s springtime in Prague, y’all — time for golems and hunts, puppies and weird gifts from your royal admirers. What, that’s only Diana? My bad.

 

“Tell us again about the unicorn’s horn. It is supposed to have miraculous curative powers.”

Writing for The Pharmaceutical Journal, William Jackson reports that the myth of the unicorn may have arisen from Alexander the Great, who adorned his war horse with golden horns for battle.

37.80.6
http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/467642

Other stories suggest that the myth of the unicorn arose from early reports of the rhinoceros, although, as Jackson reports, belief in the unicorn lasted well into the Renaissance. The belief in the medicinal properties of the unicorn horn likely began in the fifth century and persisted into Emperor Rudolf’s day — the unicorn horn allegedly neutralized poison, a tantalizing property for royals fearful of assassination attempts. 

The most common medicinal use of the “unicorn horn” was either as a cup that removed poisons and toxins or as a powder to be mixed with other ingredients (pearl! Ivory! Whale bone! Here, royals! Have a drink full of rocky things!) to purify the body.

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.

While the automaton on display at the Met was made around 1620, it’s likely that Rudolf II would have had something similar in his collection — his Kunstkammer, or Cabinet of Wonders, contained many fantastical and ingenious items. In fact, the Kunst Historiches Museum in Vienna boasts an automaton of Diana astride a centaur once owned by Rudolf II.

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.

Rabbi Judah Loew, “The Maharal,” was the spiritual leader of the Jewish community in Prague in the late sixteenth century. The Maharal was a great intellectual—in addition to establishing his reputation as a formidable Talmudic scholar in his early life, he was a friend of Tycho Brahe and Johannes Kepler and had an expansive knowledge of mathematics and science. His knowledge endeared him to Emperor Rudolf II, who consulted him frequently (in the dead of night)

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.

If you like what we do, consider leaving us a review on iTunes! We can’t wait to begin our book discussions of Book of Life with you on 14 April 2019!

Xox

Cait and Jen

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Shadow of Night – Real-Time Reading – 24 December – Chapter 15

Kieran White

Matthew and Diana’s return to England causes a bit of a ruckus in the calendar — we’re actually going to return to London and celebrate Christmas Eve in 1590 (Chapter 15) before we spend Christmas with Ysabeau, Sarah, and Em in the present day (Chapter 14).

I had never imagined that Old St. Paul’s would be so big. I gave myself another pinch. I had been administering them since spotting the Tower (it, too, looked enormous without skyscrapers all around) and London Bridge (which functioned as a suspended shopping mall). Many sights and sounds had impressed me since our arrival in the past, but nothing had taken my breath away like my first glimpses of London.

As Deb notes in both the Real-Time Reading Companion and The World of All Souls, modern London an Elizabethan London are two very different creatures.

Between 1520 and 1600, London nearly doubled in size. Tudor London began to take shape in 1529 when Henry VIII began the process of transforming Cardinal Wolsey’s York Place into the palace at Whitehall. This influenced the growth of both London and the City of Westminster. Despite the fact that the two cities are known collectively as “London,” they’ve never merged.

Hoefnagel’s Map of London circa 1570

Diana and Matthew arrive in London a mere two and a half decades after an outbreak of the plague in 1664 and the Great Fire of 1666. The Great Fire burned for three days and destroyed some five-sixths of the City. The fire began in the King’s bakery near the London Bridge and swept through a city that was unusually dry after a very hot summer. The city began to re-build almost immediately — Sir Christopher Wren submitted “ambitious” plans to Charles II that would have widened London’s streets and made London look more like Paris. Many of his plans were never realized, in part because Londoners insisted on keeping the original sites of their homes and businesses and partially because his ideas were rather expensive. Wren was eventually responsible for the construction of approximately 50 new churches, including the grand new design of St. Paul’s Cathedral.

“At last,” Henry Percy appeared, beaming. “We’ve been waiting for hours. My good lady mother sent you a goose. She heard reports that no fowl are to be had in the city and became alarmed that you would go hungry.”

As usual, Deb doesn’t do throwaway lines. In 1590, Christmas goose would have been a big deal in Elizabethan England — after her victory over the Spanish Armada, Elizabeth I declared that everyone should eat goose for Christmas dinner because she happened to be eating goose when she learned of the rout. In Tudor times, all work stopped between Christmas Day and Epiphany (or Twelfth Night). Workers returned to their labors on the Monday after Twelfth Night, known as Plough Monday.

People in the Tudor era took Christmas quite seriously — they enforced the “no work” rule by threading spinning wheels with flowers and kept a Yule log burning for the full twelve days of Christmas. The English carol tradition began during Tudor times — if you’ve sung “We Wish You a Merry Christmas,” “The First Noel,” or “Good King Wenceslas” this season, you’re keeping the tradition alive. You can find out more about Tudor Christmas traditions here.

“Is this your doing, Henry?” I looked from the entrance hall into our main living quarters. Someone had tucked holly, ivy, and fir around the fireplace and the window frames and mounded them in the center of an oak table.

The Tudors decorated their homes with evergreen foliage as a gesture of welcome and goodwill. If you’re inclined to do some last-minute decorating, English Heritage has a fun video on how to make a Tudor kissing bough:

Jen and I hope you have a wonderful Christmas Eve with your loved ones. We’ll see you again tomorrow for a (brief) Christmas entry to celebrate the preview of A Discovery of Witches TV on Sundance and Shudder. We can’t wait to hear what you have to say about Episodes 1 and 2 on our Twitter feed or via our Facebook group.

Merry merry, darlings!

xox

Cait

Real Time Reading, Uncategorized

Shadow of Night Real-Time Reading – 17 December – Chapter 13

unsplash-logoAnnie Spratt

I like being married,” I said drowsily.

Diana and Matthew spend the first ten days of their THIRD AND MOST EFFECTIVE MARRIAGE in a sort of honeymoon. The “honeymoon” apparently originated in Britain as a way of visiting relatives and friends who couldn’t make it to your actual ceremony. The word “honeymoon” may refer to an old tradition (5th century or earlier) of drinking honeyed wine a month after your wedding to aid in conception. In the absence of contraceptives, that gesture seems a bit… belated. 

In some cultures, the honeymoon period refers to the time between when grooms kidnapped and captured their brides and (1) the point at which the bride became pregnant and couldn’t be returned to her family, or (2) the point at which the family gave up hope of finding her. As this tradition appears to be vaguely Norse in origin, we should probably have a long talk with Gallowglass. For the record, this also makes a great deal of sense considering the real reason why bridesmaids all wear the same dress — to act as decoys for the real bride. Your only job as a bridesmaid is either to distract would-be kidnappers from the actual bride or lure evil spirits. Your call. 

There are hundreds of Auvergnat euphemisms for making love, but I don’t believe that’s one of them. I’ll ask Chef if he’s familiar with it.”

While I couldn’t find any Auvergnat euphemisms in particular, I figured I would favor you with a few very saucy French ones. Allons-y.

  • Faire boum boum – Literally, to make the boom boom. As in, naughty time so loud you can hear it. 
  • S’envoyer en l’air – “To be sent into the air” – casual, no-strings-attached whoopie. 
  • Avoir du monde au balcon – Er, “to have people on the balcony.” It means that your lady-friend fills out her top. 
  • Tremper son biscuit – “To dip the biscuit” – a person who likes to get naughty with everyone. 

Here are more, for fun:

Tonight was Saturnalia, the official beginning of the holiday season at the chateau. 

Saturnalia, which celebrates the agricultural god Saturn, traditionally fell on 17 December and lasted until the Julian solstice on 25 December. Celebrants observed Saturnalia much the way Deb depicts the holiday in Shadow of Night — feasting, dancing, gambling, singing, music, and gift-giving. There was also a strong tradition of role reversal — by some accounts, masters served their slaves, in others, slaves were allowed the rights and privileges of ordinary citizens

Hey, girl. You wanna play topsy-turvy? *wink wink*

It’s no coincidence that the Christian feast of Christmas falls on 25 December: as the Bible does not give a particular date for celebrating the birth of Christ, churches settled on combining the Christmas celebration with that of Saturnalia somewhere in the 4th century C.E. Pope Julius I apparently believed that combining celebrations would encourage more converts to Christianity. 

If you’re looking to celebrate Saturnalia, take a page out of Philippe’s book — decorate outdoor trees with stars, suns, and moons, drape greenery over doors, windows, and people, and throw a party. If you can do so safely, cause a festive ruckus in your street and organize a parade. 

The clock was unlike any I’d ever seen before. A carved and gilded cabinet surrounded a water barrel. A long copper pipe stretched up from the barrel and dropped water into the hull of a splendid model ship suspended by a rope wound around a cylinder. 

In the Real-Time Reading Companion, Deb indicates that Philippe’s clock is the missing water clock of mathematician and cartographer Oronce Fine. The water clock, or clepsydra, dates back to 1500 BCE. Sadly, I couldn’t find an image of a water clock from the same era, but you can read about the evolution and function of water clocks here

Friday marked the shortest day of the year and the celebration of Yule.

The pre-Christian Scandinavian festival of Yule lasts for twelve days and celebrated the “re-birth” of the sun at the winter solstice. Yule celebrants lit bonfires, toasted trees, fields, and crops with wassail (spiced cider), and went between houses with pomanders and other fragrant gifts. The European pagan tradition also recognizes and celebrates Yule and gave us the Yule log — the burning of the log banished evil spirits and brought luck for the coming year. The pagan rituals also celebrate the return of the Oak King, who presides over the warmer half of the year, and the retreat of the Holly King, who rules in the dark winter months. 

If you’re interested in celebrating some Yuletide traditions in your own home, consider taking a solstice walk to gather a Yule log for burning in your hearth. You could create a Yule altar filled with “solar-related botanicals” such as cinnamon, star anise, and cloves. You could incorporate gratitude for the return of the sun in your meditation or yoga practice. Give the gift of seeds to those you love to celebrate the coming spring. If you’re feeling super festive, you might make something special, like this wassail, to share with your friends. If you’d like alcoholic wassail (*raises hand*), you might try this version. 

We covered this chapter of Shadow of Night in Episode 25 – Partyfamilias. Until next time, we hope that you and your loved ones celebrate a healthy and happy Saturnalia, a blessed solstice, and a merry Yule. Feel free to join our Facebook group, or shoot us an e-mail at chamomileandclovecast@gmail.com. You can also follow us on Twitter @chamomilenclove.

Merry merry,

xoxo

Cait and Jen  

Podcast, Uncategorized

Episode 34 – Plot Goals

unsplash-logoDanny Pittoors

Happiest Sunday, darling Clovers!

It’s our second-to-last episode of the year and only THREE EPISODES AWAY from the release of A Discovery of Witches TV on Sundance Now and Shudder on 17 January 2019. We’ve got lots of fun activities planned to celebrate the premiere, so keep your eyes on our Facebook page and Twitter feed for updates. 

In the meantime, it’s time to run from the court of Rudolf like our hair’s on fire. In Episode 34, we discover the True Secret of Secrets, fight our way out of Prague, and accomplish rather a lot. Join us as we discuss denouements, antagonists, epigraphs, and Jen’s rather cheeky summary of the action in Section IV of Shadow of Night. 

Download the episode here. 

If you’d like to join the conversation, follow us on Twitter @chamomilenclove or email us at chamomileandclovecast@gmail.com. You can also find us on Facebook as Chamomile & Clove – An All Souls Podcast or join our Facebook group, The Chamomile & Clove Clovers. We can’t wait to hear from you!

Love,

Cait and Jen 

Real Time Reading, Uncategorized

Shadow of Night Real-Time Reading – 8 December – Chapter 12

<a style="background-color:black;color:white;text-decoration:none;padding:4px 6px;font-family:-apple-system, BlinkMacSystemFont, "San Francisco", "Helvetica Neue", Helvetica, Ubuntu, Roboto, Noto, "Segoe UI", Arial, sans-serif;font-size:12px;font-weight:bold;line-height:1.2;display:inline-block;border-radius:3px" href="https://unsplash.com/@guillermoalvarez?utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=photographer-credit&utm_content=creditBadge" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer" title="Download free do whatever you want high-resolution photos from Guillermo Álvarez"><span style="display:inline-block;padding:2px 3px"><svg xmlns="http://www.w3.org/2000/svg" style="height:12px;width:auto;position:relative;vertical-align:middle;top:-1px;fill:white" viewBox="0 0 32 32"><title>unsplash-logo</title><path d="M20.8 18.1c0 2.7-2.2 4.8-4.8 4.8s-4.8-2.1-4.8-4.8c0-2.7 2.2-4.8 4.8-4.8 2.7.1 4.8 2.2 4.8 4.8zm11.2-7.4v14.9c0 2.3-1.9 4.3-4.3 4.3h-23.4c-2.4 0-4.3-1.9-4.3-4.3v-15c0-2.3 1.9-4.3 4.3-4.3h3.7l.8-2.3c.4-1.1 1.7-2 2.9-2h8.6c1.2 0 2.5.9 2.9 2l.8 2.4h3.7c2.4 0 4.3 1.9 4.3 4.3zm-8.6 7.5c0-4.1-3.3-7.5-7.5-7.5-4.1 0-7.5 3.4-7.5 7.5s3.3 7.5 7.5 7.5c4.2-.1 7.5-3.4 7.5-7.5z"></path></svg></span><span style="display:inline-block;padding:2px 3px">Guillermo Álvarez</span></a>

Are y’all ready to go to a wedding? Put on your fancy pants and loosen your belt, because there’s feasting ahead. 

Matthew laughed. “Almost indistinguishable–so long as the menu includes grilled eel and a gilded peacock.”

The recipes, flavors, and techniques we associate with modern French cooking didn’t develop until after the Renaissance. This isn’t to say that pre-modern cooking was simple–in fact, for the ruling classes, it was quite the opposite.  Medieval food “relied on combinations of sweet and sour, huge quantities of spice, heavy processing (so that no ingredient was identifiable or distinct), and trompe-l’oeil, a French term for optical illusion. Nothing was meant to taste as it looked.” In the height of the Renaissance, cooks attempted to return to the recipes and techniques favored by the Greeks and Romans and attempted to heighten the taste of foods rather than alter or disguise them. The French culinary tradition began to change in 1533, when Queen Catherine de Medici came to France from Italy to marry King Henry II. Queen Catherine introduced fricassees, pot roasts, pies, and sorbets to the French culinary lexicon and reportedly required France to learn table manners. This article from National Geographic has extraordinary detail (and images!) to accompany the development of Renaissance table manners — I thoroughly recommend it. 

The dishes Matthew mentions would be at home on most medieval or Renaissance tables. Should you be inclined to eat a gilded peacock, you first need to clean and roast the bird, leaving its skin and feathers intact. Once the bird is cooked, you re-dress the bird in its own skin and feathers (not remotely creepy) and then either gilt the whole bit or just the beak. Your call. 

If you’re so inclined, Food52 has suggestions for a medieval dinner party prepared in a modern kitchen: chickpea stew, roast chicken, garlic confit, roasted potatoes, and an almond cake. You can also find a rather extensive list of medieval recipes here. I wish you particular luck with the dish called “Garbage.” 

Artemis Agrotere, renowned huntress, Alcides Leontothymos beseeches you to hold this child Diana in your hand. Artemis Lykeie, lady of the wolves, protect her in every way. Artemis Patroia, goddess of my ancestors, bless her with children so that my lineage continues. Artemis Phosphoros, bring the light of your wisdom when she is in darkness. Artemis Upis, watch over your namesake during her journey in this world.”

In his incantation, Philippe refers to a number of “epithets” of Artemis. Epithets could be used for literary or ritualistic emphasis to identify the deity (or the aspect of the deity) to whom one prayed.

At the height of the classical period, one could find those worshiping Greek deities from Spain to Afghanistan. Without a standardized image of a deity and without established worship practices, the various cults of Greek gods and goddesses developed different forms of address that reflected both the desire to avoid addressing the divine directly (HEY DEMETER, ARE YOU LISTENING? v. “I beseech you, great lady of the hearth.”).

Philippe’s incantation lists several of Artemis’s epithets, but there are dozens of others, including:

  • Brauronia – protector and keeper of girls
  • Parthenos – “virgin”
  • Hegemone – ruler of nymphs
  • Limenia – protector of harbors
  • Limnatis – goddess of transition, goddess of the marsh
  • Lokhea, Genetyllis – protector of women in childbirth
  • Aeginaea – wielder of the javelin
  • Coryphaea – goddess who inhabits the summit of the mountain
  • Daphnaea – “of the laurel”
  • Heurippe – finder of horses

See here and here. There is a Roman temple near Clermont-Ferrand in France that may have served as the inspiration for Philippe’s temple in Shadow of Night. 

A hero with dark hair and green eyes named Peleus left his home to seek his fortune.”

As we discussed in Episode 25 – Partyfamilias, Philippe uses the wedding banquet as an opportunity to tell the story of Peleus and Thetis, the sea nymph, parents of Achilles. The myth of Peleus and Thetis is a complicated one, but it’s useful to know that their wedding is the one that started the Trojan War. P&T failed to invite Eris, goddess of strife, to the wedding and so she sent the golden apple inscribed with the words, “To the fairest.” Chaos ensued. Many died. 

The part we haven’t talked about yet is the potential connection between Philippe — Alcides Leontothymus, or maybe Heracles–and Peleus. See, Peleus was a friend of Heracles who served with the great hero in his expedition against the Amazons. Philippe sings the invocation to the heroes from Catullus at Matthew and Diana’s wedding banquet. Catullus wrote that the Fates sang a magic song–this magic song–at the wedding of Peleus and Thetis, much as Philippe does for Matthew and Diana. 

The Wedding of Peleus and Thetis, 1612, oil on copper. Joachim Wtewael.

To be fair to Marie, La Robe (I thought of my ensemble only in French, and always in capitals) was spectacular,

In the Real-Time Reading Companion, Deb reveals that she based Diana’s 16th century wedding gown on the costume pictures in Lavinia Fontana’s “Portrait of a Lady of the Court.” Fontana “is considered to be the first woman to become a successful professional artist in Europe.”


Lavinia Fontana, Portrait of a Lady of the Court (c. 1590)

 She completed over seventy works and became a renowned portraitist in her native Bologna, Italy.  

The “Portrait of a Lady of the Court” depicts an unknown sitter dressed in the rich textiles of sixteenth century Bologna. It is “likely” that the portrait depicts a prospective bride based on the imagery of the flowers and cornucopia adorning her costume. Fontana was well-known for her ability to render clothing and jewels in exquisite detail and, as a result, many upper-class Bolognese families vied for her portrait services. Apparently, one often included dogs in marital portraits as a symbol of fidelity

Marriages take place at the church door to avoid bloody disputes later over whether or not the ceremony took place as reported. We can thank God there isn’t a blizzard.” 

Matthew’s correct — medieval marriages often happened outside to ensure multiple witnesses. In an era where most marriages took place for financial or political reasons, everyone had a rather vested interest in legitimacy — both of the marriage and of any offspring who resulted from the match. This is odd, I think for a period of history in which it was relatively easy to get married by accident. This is the plot of several Hallmark movies and Lauren Willig’s Deception of the Emerald Ring (good fun, would recommend). 

To my great surprise, Medieval Times (yes, THAT Medieval Times) has a reasonably-sized article on medieval marriage ceremonies. Around the internet, you can find a wealth of trivia regarding medieval weddings — did you know, for example, that the tradition of throwing the garter (which I detest) comes from the Middle Ages? People used to bundle the bride and groom forcibly into bed and then rip off bits of their clothes as tokens. The garter is a convenient way to do that without, you know, committing assault. Tiered wedding cakes also appear to come from the medieval period, when guests of the bride and groom would bring tiny cakes to stack on top of one another as a part of the marriage feast. 

For your entertainment, here’s an unrelated article on weird wedding traditions from Mental Floss. Should you be interested in planning your own medieval or Renaissance wedding, Pinterest has you covered

We’ll catch up to Matthew and Diana on 17 December at the end of their honeymoon. In the meantime, feel free to join us in our Facebook group, the Chamomile and Clove Clovers, or follow us on Twitter @chamomilenclove. You can also e-mail us at chamomileandclovecast@gmail.com. 

Until then, take care.

xoxo

Cait and Jen