Wherever you are in the world, we hope it’s a peaceful, quiet day and that you’re safe and healthy and making the best of things. Today’s episode covers Chapters 7, 10, and 13 of Time’s Convert and Phoebe Taylor’s first few days as a vampire (and as Miriam’s daughter!). Join us for a discussion of maturity, privilege, morality, and more as we see what life is like on the other side of rebirth.
You can keep in touch with us by following us on Twitter, e-mailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org, joining our Facebook group, the Chamomile & Clove Clovers, or by finding us on Instagram. We’re so excited to keep discussing Time’s Convert and what’s next for the world of All Souls and hope to see you soon.
In today’s Real-Time Reading, we’re getting the eff out of Prague — and with good reason. The timing of these chapters is a bit curious, as we’re supposed to have Rudolf’s musical fiasco on 10 April and escape Prague on Walpurgis Night, which takes place on 30 April. I note this only because I’m unclear on when to publish this segment in our RTR journey — but we’re going to roll with it. It’s also possible that we’re playing with our funky 16th century European calendars again, so it probably all makes sense somewhere. Onward — to bonfires and vegetable portraits!
“The humans’ Dracula–the Dragon’s son known as the Impaler–was only one of Vlad’s brood,” Matthew explained.
“The Impaler was a nasty bastard. Happily, he’s dead now, and all we have to worry about are his father, his brothers, and their Bathory allies.” Gallowglass looked somewhat cheered.
If you wanted to, you could take a tour following the life of the “Blood Countess” in Slovakia. Tell me about it afterwards; I’ll wait right here.
“I want us all as far from Prague as possible by the time the sun rises,” Matthew said grimly. “Something is very wrong. I can smell it.”
“That may not be such a good idea. Do you not know what night it is?” Gallowglass asked. Matthew shook his head. “Walpurgisnacht. They are lighting bonfires all around the city and burning effigies of witches — unless they can find a real one, of course.”
As many of you likely know, May 1 is sacred and celebrated in many cultures. In the Celtic tradition, May 1 is Beltane, a festival that celebrates the return of the summer (and the fertile seasons) with bonfires. Like Walpurgis Night, Beltane marks the turn of the seasons and the cleansing power of fire to bless crops and livestock, ward off evil, and its reminder of the long, warm days to come in summer.
“Matthew’s father beat him with a sword once. I saw it.” The firedrake’s wings fluttered softly within my rib cage in silent agreement. “Then he knocked him over and stood on him.”
“He must be as big as the emperor’s bear Sixtus,” Jack said, awed at the thought of anyone conquering Matthew.
It’s hard, in the age of the terribly-disturbing Tiger King, to imagine Rudolf II as anything other than a very strange man with a very large ego who derived some sort of pleasure in ripping animals (and items) from their homelands for his pleasure. This fascinating article describes “three Rudolfs” visible from history:
“1. the feeble, unstable, and impoverished monarch who began his reign by succeeding to a glamorous political inheritance but ended it a prisoner in his own castle, powerless in the Empire, evicted from Austria and Hungary, deposed even in Bohemia, where he was forced to endure the coronation tumult of his detested brother; 2. The second Rudolf is a great Maecenas, the protector of the arts and sciences, of Arcimboldo and Spranger, Kepler and Tycho Brahe (Maecenas – cultural minister at the time of Octavian); 3. The third Rudolf is different again, and seemingly much less edifying. He is a notorious patron of occult learning, who trod the paths of secret knowledge with an obsession bordering on madness.”
The descriptions of Rudolf’s castle–and its menagerie–are fantastical. Lions, tigers, bears, apple trees, palm trees, olive trees, a maze, hedges in the shape of letters… an amazing place for anyone who visited in the 16th century. In a 2018 exhibition, the Bunkamura Museum in Japan hosted a number of artifacts from Rudolf’s fantastical collection that seem appropriate for today’s reading. First, the beautiful Orpheus Playing to the Animals (1625), allegedly inspired by the menagerie at Prague Castle. Second, this extraordinary portrait of Rudolf II as Vertumnus by court painter Giuseppe Arcimboldo. I had no idea this fellow (note the peapod eyelids and pear nose) was based on Rudolf II, nor that the Hapsburgs employed Arcimboldo for over 25 years. Vertumnus is the Roman god of seasonal change and metamorphoses — apt, I think, for a student of alchemy and the occult.
We’ll pick up again with Peter Knox in modern day Prague in our next post. In the meantime, don’t forget that our coverage of Time’s Convert begins this Sunday, April 12, 2020. You can follow us on Twitter as @chamomilenclove or join our Facebook group, the Chamomile & Clove Clovers, if you want to stay in touch.
We hope you and those you love are safe, sound, and healthy. We’re so grateful for our All Souls family and glad that you’re here. Take care of each other.
Signor Pasetti was delighted to teach some of the court ladies a “dance of the wandering stars,” which would provide Matthew something heavenly to observe while he waited for his beloved moon to appear.
Blame quarantine, y’all, but I definitely fell down a Renaissance dance YouTube hole. Our friend Signor Pasetti did, in fact, exist (and he was the imperial dancing master for Rudolf II), but I couldn’t find any preserved examples of his choreography. What I did find was examples of the hopping dance known as the galliard and the stately pavane. Embedded below is a video that purports to demonstrate Czech folk and court dances of the Renaissance. I have no idea, as I was not there, but I’ll buy it for purposes of imagining the dance of the wandering stars.
You can learn more about Renaissance dance types (and watch helpful videos) via the U.S. Library of Congress.
“It is a mark of respect, Herr Roydon.” Rudolf placed a subtle emphasis on the name, “This once belonged to King Vladislaus and was passed on to my grandmother. The insignia belongs to a brave company of Hungarian knights known as the Order of the Defeated Dragon.”
Rudolf may be referring to the Order of the Dragon, or the Societas Draconistarum, a monarchical chivalric order founded by Sigismund von Luxembourg that sought to fight the Ottoman Empire, defend the Hungarian monarchy, and defend the Catholic Church. The order chose as its symbol the defeated dragon slain by St. George, sometimes depicted as a ouroboros with a red cross. Vlad II Dracul, Prince of Wallachia (and father of Dracula!), was a member of the order. According to Wikipedia, there aren’t many surviving historical examples of the original emblem… which is probably why my internet searches turned up a lot of very modern jewelry portraying dragons and no beautifully-embellished, jewel-encrusted chains like the one Rudolf gives Diana in 1591. I like to imagine that she left it behind and 16th Century Matthew lost it.
I tried extremely hard to find an image of the phallic cabbage root Diana mentions from the Kunstkammer, but alas — the internet failed me. In our next installment for the Real-Time Reading, we’re fleeing Prague under cover of night. I hope you packed your red hose.
Between now and then, you can find our back catalogue of episodes here or you can get in touch with us by e-mailing us, following us on Twitter, or by becoming a member of our Facebook group. As a reminder, we’re starting our chapter-by-chapter discussion of TIME’S CONVERT beginning THIS SUNDAY, 12 April 2020. We can’t wait to see what you have to say!
We promise — the plot and time travel discussion is coming — we’re just chickens. Procrastinating chickens. This week, we’re talking about all the themes covered by the All Souls Trilogy — identity, family, love and trauma, redemption, the meaning of the epigraph, and on and on. While wrapping our brains around these huge topics, we’re also talking about redeeming antagonists, the price of responsibility, divinity, cosmic duologies, and even a little tiny bit of time travel. It’s a big, meaty episode, so dig in and let us know what you think by shooting us a message on Twitter, sending us an e-mail, or by joining our discussion group, the Chamomile & Clove Clovers on Facebook.
This is our last discussion of The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness. It is not, however, our last foray into the world of All Souls. In addition to our planned All Souls Trilogy wrap episodes, we will be continuing to discuss A Discovery of Witches the TV series, and will be venturing into a discussion of Time’s Convert by Deborah Harkness. The point is, you’re not rid of us yet.
In this episode, we discuss themes, motifs, book favorites, and listener feedback for The Book of Life. Catch us next time for the first of our trilogy wrap episodes. We can’t wait!