Saturday, December 6, 2008

The mysterious tale of Lizzie Borden

Lizzie Borden took an axe
And gave her mother forty whacks
And when she saw what she had done
She gave her father forty-one





Even to this very day, the horrific tale of Lizzie Borden is still talked about.

Lizzie Borden was born in Fall River, Massachusetts on July 19, 1860. When she was three years old, her mother Sarah Borden died, leaving both Lizzie and her elder sister, Emma motherless. Their father, Andrew Borden, soon remarried a woman named Abby Durfree Gray in 1865 and the newly formed family lived a relatively quiet life in their home on 92nd Street.

Lizzie and Emma grew to womanhood. Lizzie was a strong churgoer and taught Sunday School, belonged to Church organizations, and even travelled a little. Lizzie Borden's father was a hard working man and had acquired a significant amount of wealth, but he was stingy with his money, spending little, even refusing to add modern plumbing to their relatively nice home of decent size.

In 1884, Andrew bought his wife's half-sister a home. This incensed the two sisters who objected vehemently. Conflict within the home escalated. The siblings fought with their stepmother and referred to her as "Mrs. Borden" instead of "mother".

In an effort to eliminate the growing hostility between his daughters and his wife, Andrew gave Lizzie and Emma some money of their own and permitted them to rent out his old family home. But tension between the three women continued to grow. When some thefts were discovered from Andrew and Sarah's bedrooms, each member of the family bought and installed locks for all their bedroom doors.

In July of 1892, Lizzie and Emma went to visit some friends. Lizzie returned soon thereafter, but Emma remained. During the same time, Lizzie's uncle, the brother of her deceased mother, came to stay at the house for a visit. In early August, Andrew and Abby fell ill with an attack of vomiting. Abby confided to a friend that she suspected someone had poisoned her. On August 4, Lizzie's uncle and father went into town together. Andrew returned home without his brother-in-law and and lay down for a nap in the sitting room.

The family's maid was also taking a nap at this time and was awoken by Lizzie who urged her to come downstairs. Lizzie's father had been murdered, hacked in the face and head with an axe or hatchet. Lizzie said it happened while she was in the barn. The doctor was sent for. Upon his arrival, they discovered Abby dead in a bedroom, also hacked numerous times.

Andrew died without a will, therefore the entire estate, worth between $300,000 to $500,000, would go to Lizzie and Emma and not to Abby's heirs.

When evidence revealed that Lizzie had tried to burn a dress several days after the murder and that she'd tried to purchase poison, Lizzie Borden was arrested even though there was no bloodstained clothing found and only a washed, very clean hatchet made to look dirty was discovered in the cellar.

The widely publicized trial of Lizzie Borden commenced June 3, 1893 and popular opinion as to her innocence or guilt was split. Some Massachusetts feminists wrote in Lizzie Borden's favor and other townsfolk vehemently voiced their anger at her guilt.

Lizzie Borden never testified because she was adamant she had been in the barn searching for fishing equipment and eating pears outside while the murders were occuring. She insisted that she was innocent and kept her silence and allowed her lawyer to speak on her behalf.

Lack of direct evidence failed to convince the jury of her guilt and she was acquitted on June 20, 1893.

Afterwards, Lizzie continued to live in Fall River, but bought and lived in a new, much bigger home called "Maplecroft". She called herself Lizbeth instead of Lizzie. She and Emma lived in their new home together until they argued sometime in 1904 or 1905. Lizzie and Emma owned many pets, and left their estates to the Animal Rescue Leauge.

Lizzie Borden died at Fall River, Massachusetts, in 1927. She never outlived her notorious reputation as a murderess. She was buried next to her father and stepmother. The home in which the murders took place was turned into a bed-and-breakfast in 1992 and is now a popular tourist spot.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Marie Anne Charlotte Corday d’Armont 1768 - 1793



Charlotte Corday was born on July 27, 1768 at Saint-Saturnin, France. She received her education in the Roman Catholic convent in Caen. She was an exceptionally beautiful young woman. When the French Revolution broke out in 1789 she was a staunch supporter of the monarchy. Certain national factions came into existence. Corday sided with the Girondins, a more moderate group, and avoided groups aligned with Marat and Robespierre who wanted to destroy the monarchy.

In 1793, the Girondins were expelled from the national convention, so they gathered at Caen to organize against their opponents. Passionate about their cause, Corday joined them in Caen. She firmly believed that Marat was a most onerous enemy. So she plotted to find a way to meet him. On July 13, 1793, was able to gain an audience with Marat on the pretence of revealing the secrets of the Girondins at Caen. While he was in his bath, she stabbed him through the heart.



Corday was immediately apprehended.

During her trial, Corday remained insistent that she had solely concieved and carried out the assasination. In her own words: "It's only in Paris that people have eyes for Marat. In the other departments, he is regarded as a monster."

She was sentenced to death.

A detailed account of Marat's murder and the subsequent trial and execution can be found in the book "Citizens: A Chronicle of the French Revolution" by Simon Schama.

In the final days of her life as she awaited her execution, Charlotte penned a letter to her father and begged his forgiveness for "having disposed of my existence without your permission."

On the eve of her execution, she wrote that "there are so few patriots who know how to die for their country; everything is egoism; what a sorry people to found a Republic."



On the day of her execution, she refused a priest. Rather, she requested that Hauer, an officer of the National Guard, paint her portrait. The only way she could reward him was with a lock of her hair. She told him it was a souvenir of a poor dying woman.

A man named Pierre Notelet witnessed the execution and described it in writtenf form:

"Her beautiful face was so calm, that one would have said she was a statue. Behind her, young girls held each other's hands as they danced. For eight days I was in love with Charlotte Corday."

As she faced her death, she remained convinced that she had avenged many innocent victims and prevented many other disasters by her act of assasination. She was twenty-five when guillotined on July 17, 1793.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Medieval Torture

For the past several weeks, I've been re-writing a chapter in my novel, A Scarlet Mantle. The chapter deals with a nun who has an affair with a monk, not a rare occurrence in medieval times. In trying to do the chapter historical justice, I also wanted to portray the punishment that would follow such a transgression.

So I delved into the dark world of medieval punishments. What I learned is too harsh to portray in my novel, at least if I want a publisher to one day accept it. Basically, the punishments for fornication back then ranged from castration for the men, to being buried alive or stoned for the women. I even found true circumstances where these punishments were used on specific persons.

When I originally submitted the novel, agents and publishers rejected because the content was far too offensive. I agree wholeheartedly. I feared I would offend too many readers. So now that I'm rewriting the novel, I have settled for severe whippings and expulsions, punishments less offensive for today's readers.

In my research I stumbled upon the following video which depicts some of the methods of torture regularly used back then. I found it on You Tube and it appears to be a high school project. Although the two ladies who narrate the video have pleasing voices and sometime break out into nervous giggles, the subject matter is very dark and disturbing. So please be warned before viewing it. Medieval torture is a very dark subject, definitely not for the faint of heart. If you're interested, I encourage you to view the video. If you're easily offended, please visit my archives section for topics you may find more pleasing.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A Truly Evil Antagonist



Sometimes I read to escape and sometimes I read to learn. Bloodstone Castle is intended to be a complete escape and a page turner. Ernesto, the Duke of Savona, is the bad guy in this story. Desperate, ambitious, determined, I made him pure evil. Why? Because I believe that just as we need true heros to model ourselves after, we also need true villains so we know who not to model ourselves after.


I never intended Ernesto of Savona to be so evil in my story. It just happened as I wrote. These pictures are exactly how I envisioned him as I wrote. He really does create havoc in whoever's world he invades, evil incarnate, hatefully arrogant.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The History of French Toast

French Toast


Did you know that French Toast may not be be French at all, but Roman? A recipe was found in a cookbook from the 1st century AD Roman cookbook called Apicius.

The people of Belgium and France call it pain perdu (“lost bread”) since it is a way to use stale, “lost” bread.

A similar dish, suppe dorate, was popular in England during the Middle Ages, although the English might have learned it from the French Normans, who had a dish called tostees dorees. However, according to IHOP, the first written mention of the dish comes from the court of Henry V of England (1413–1422) and is called Dulcia Domestica:

Dulcia Domestica

4 Eggs
1 cup Milk
8 slices white bread crusts removed (opt)
Honey
Cinnamon

And here is the original recipe from the Apicius cookbook that dates from the 1st century A.D.:

Break fine white bread, crust removed, into rather large pieces which soak in milk [and beaten eggs], fry in oil, cover with honey and serve.

Modern version: Beat eggs and milk together. Dip bread in batter. Fry in hot skillet, turning after each side browns. Serve hot with warmed honey. Sprinkle with cinnamon if desired.

Per serving (without honey): 235 calories, 12 g protein, 26 g carbohydrates, 9 g fat, 3 g saturated fat, 221 mg cholesterol, 329 mg sodium.

Source: Kurt A. Nemes, "The Oldest Living Cookbook," The Washington Post FOOD Section, 9/14/94. Typed by Linda Howard. From: Linda Howard Date: 09-15-94

Thursday, September 4, 2008

The History of Vermicelli Pasta


This pasta originated in 14th-century Italy. It is an extra-fine spaghetti and was so named because it is as fine as small worms that are found in cheese. Young country girls made the pasta in the summertime and would make enough to last the entire year, drying them in the sun to make them last longer.

Vermicelli Pasta

Vermicelli
Chicken or vegetable broth
Parmesan cheese
Butter
Saffron
Asparagus (optional)

Boil vermicelli in broth. Drain and add butter, saffron and cheese. Serve hot. For variety and color, add asparagus.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Quedlinburg


Those of you who know me well, know that I've been researching the Ottonian Empire since 2002. The roots of the Ottonian Empire are in Germany - Quedlinburg, Magdeburg, Erfurt, and many others. I've collected numerous books, texts, and photos. The only thing missing is that I have never been there - yet.

Quedlinburg was the main residence of Heinrich and his wife Matilde, the characters in my novel Heinrich the Fowler. My current work in progress, A Scarlet Mantle, is strictly about Matilde in first person narrative.

I found this video on YouTube and although many of the structures that existed in the 10th century may not be there, much has been preserved. Quedlinburg is a Unesco World Site. This video helps give me a feel for the area and the times.

One day, I hope to visit and place a flower on the grave of my heroine.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Struggles with Historical Research


My current work in progress, A Scarlet Mantle, is causing me grief at every turn. I equate it to those sleepless nights when we toss and turn in bed unable to find a comfortable position.

First it was changing the manuscript back and forth between first person and third person narrative. Gladly I settled on first person and that seemed to help.

When I finally thought I had the first seven chapters polished, I discovered that I have to re-write them all. For years I've been searching for the birth and death dates for a particular character. It always eluded me. This didn't surprise me because she was a woman and not of any great significant importance except for giving birth to my hero.

Last night, while re-reading some research textbooks I collected, I accidentally stumbled upon it. I learned that she died 6 years before my story begins. The information was in a tiny footnote in the minutest print at the bottom of a page. Now I've got to go back and take her out of several scenes and write all those chapters.

Writing a true historical in 10th century Germany is very challenging. Every text book differs pertaining to names and dates. They even mix up characters names and occurrences. It's been hard sorting the pepper from the fly poop. And instead of giving up and moving on to another book, it only makes me want to dig in all the more and get it done!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Medieval Castles fascinate me



One of the most fascinating aspects that continually draws me into the medieval era, is the mystery and antiquity of castles. Of course, living in western Canada affords little opportunity to see castles first hand. The closest I can come to experiencing a medieval castle is visiting the Banff Springs Hotel.



It has a medieval theme throughout and even a wonderful great hall.



I love castles, everything about them. I think that's why I'm always writing in the medieval era - it was vastly different, more violent, crueler. This opens up a realm of opportunities for heros to stand out.

Here is a fascinating article I found about medieval castles and how they were built. I give the author credits at the bottom of the article.

Enjoy!


Medieval Castles were structures that changed dramatically over the centuries of the Middle Ages. These changes were brought about by many factors like changes in warfare and the influences of different cultures. Here is a brief history of how the Medieval Castle developed over the five hundred years of the Middle Ages.

Around the tenth century the first castle-like structures were being built as defensive positions. These defensive structures were called Motte and Bailey and they were large mounds of dirt that were capped by wooden stockade fences and buildings. Hundreds of these structures were built during the century and they were very practical because they were made from local and easy to get materials. They didn’t require the massive resources that later stone castles would require.

During the eleventh century many changes were sweeping through Europe and among these changes was an engineering revolution that enabled architectural building with stone. But this engineering growth alone was not enough for the building of large fortresses because that required a substantial commitment of time, resources and money. But there was also a social change sweeping through Europe. Lords and Kings were consolidating large kingdoms and gaining the wealth that made the building of large stone castles possible. In order to protect their lands or to gain a hold in adjoining lands lords and kings built stone fortresses. These stone fortresses were very similar to the Motte and Bailey structures of the previous century and they were often called "shell-keeps".

It was during the twelfth century that the massive stone keeps we normally consider to be medieval castles took shape. As crusaders returned to Europe they brought with them the engineering and design knowledge they learned from the Greek and the Turkish. Both of these cultures were very proficient with stonework and this new knowledge of architectural building enabled the building of large and elaborate stone fortresses throughout Europe.

Castle building reached a feverish climax during the thirteenth century with over five hundred massive and very intricate castles being built throughout Europe. These castles were the masterpieces that we now think of as medieval castles and they had many design and engineering elaborations such as round towers. Up until this century the towers in castles were square but the square shape was vulnerable to battering rams and had blind zones. Round towers were stronger, less vulnerable, and had no blind spots.

It was during the fourteenth century that the building of castles went into decline and then its eventual demise. Further developments in technology, and in particular the development of gunpowder and artillery brought about the demise by making it impractical and futile to spend ten years or more to build a castle that could be totally destroyed by a few days of artillery fire. But the castle didn’t disappear. It evolved into less of a security structure and more of a living quarters for royalty and wealthy families or what we now think of as a Palace.

The medieval castle was an amazing art and engineering form that evolved dramatically over a period of about five hundred years and reflected changes in warfare, culture, engineering and society.

To learn more about Medieval castles visit the author’s website at: Medieval Castles

To learn more about Medieval Knights visit his site Knight-Medieval.com

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Will_Kalif

Friday, July 11, 2008

The History of Chocolate


The Story of Chocolate

It would be quite unthinkable to even attempt to produce good chocolates without
knowing the fabulous history of chocolate which dates back to the 10th century.

The Aztecs were the first to start working with cacao beans. At that time their God,
Quetzalcoatl, was the Gardener of Paradise, which explains why cacao beans were
used as their form of currency. At this stage they served no culinary purpose
whatsoever, and it was only on observing the monkeys that the Aztecs started to
become interested in the culinary properties of the cacao tree fruit.



To begin with only the pulp of the tree was used and it was not until later on that the beans themselves started to be consumed. We do not know who actually had the idea to roast the beans and then grind them into a paste, but whoever it was had hit on something fantastic.



This mixture of cocoa and spices was to bring happiness to a
whole population. That is until the day a strange vessel sailed into their harbours.

When in 1502 Christopher Columbus set foot in this "New Spain" he received a gift
of cacao beans from an Indian Chief. He had no idea of the immeasurable value of
what he held in his hands.

Meanwhile the legends of Quetzalcoatl continued. As a King cum Priest seeking
immortality he lost his way and finally became mad when he swallowed a potion
prepared by an evil magician. Before moving eastwards he prophesized saying "I will
return in a year of the reed and exercise my authority once again". The cult
continued to live on under the name of Votan until 1519, a year of the reed. Chance
had it that on 21 April 1519, the time Quetzalcoatl was due to return Hernan Cort├ęs
actually landed on the shores of belonging to King Moctrezuma. Convinced that the
"Great Plumed Serpent" had returned, the Aztecs were invaded and easily
conquered, and endured only bitter hardship until they finally disappeared. The
Conquistadors who were in the search of a new El Dorado also went through terrible
times. The cocoa prepared for them by the Aztecs was not to their liking because it
was too fatty and bitter, but since they had already exhausted their own supplies
they had no other choice but to get used toit. Cocoa served either with cane sugar
or as a drink gradually gained a reputation as a powerful aphrodisiac. This
reputation was of course reinforced by what the legends had to say about cocoa.
The Spanish soon became very fond of this beverage.

But it was not until 1580 that cocoa reached Europe and the first chocolate makers
began to set up along the Iberian Peninsula. Their recipe for the cocoa drink was
kept secret for a long time until the Netherlands and the Flemish Kingdom
eventually discovered it. It was not before the beginning of the 17th century that
Europe finally discovered the virtues of cacao beans and it was only in 1671 that the first Parisian ³Drinking Chocolate House² opened.

It was not until 1674 that the "chocolate bar" from Great Britain finally caught on.
But there was still a long way to go and it was as late as 1850 that chocolate ceased to be a product solely reserved for the aristocracy and started to enjoy widespread public distribution.

A new industry started to replace the handmade production market, with Menier et
Poulain leading the way in France. Other large names started to appear over the
years: Van Houten who introduced a manufacturing process for chocolate powder in
1825, Peter from Switzerland who introduced milk into chocolate in 1875, Caffarel
from Italy who created Gianduj, Neuhaus from Belgium who invented praline and the
box of chocolates as we know it today, and finally Suchard who made the bar of
milk chocolate the popular success it is today.

Bonnat came onto the scene in 1884 and the famous French praline was only the
beginning of what has turned out to be a long story full of chocolate delights and
surprises. It is worth noting that Chocolatier Bonnat was the first chocolatier to
make Chartreuse chocolates. Bonnat remains the exclusive supplier today.

Despite the fact that chocolate traditions began over 5 centuries ago the love,
passion and pleasure which kindled desires then, still live on today. Chocolate the
perfect partner for all gourmet discoveries.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Robert_Whitehead
http://EzineArticles.com/?The-Story-of-Chocolate&id=173419

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Sott'olio


One of my favourite things is hot peppers in oil. I add this to a nice plate of pasta. My mother and my aunts always made it and gave me a jar or two for my pantry. They don't have a recipe, so I was always afraid to try it because it is preserving and there is always a risk.

I subscribe to an About newsletter on Italian food. Earlier today, I received their most recent edition and there was the instructions for making sott'olio. I immediately ran to the Safeway and purchased a handful of hot red peppers, small mason jars, vinegar, and olive oil.

So tomorrow I'll tackle this project. The peppers my family uses are the small long red ones, so I'll be cutting them into small pieces and then preserving them in oil.

Can't wait!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Pesto Sauce is from Genoa and the Ligurian Coast


The ancient port city of Genoa and the Ligurian Coast made an excellent backdrop for my novel, Bloodstone Castle. It is where Pesto sauce originated from.

Pasta is usually associated with Italy, even if it's cooked all around the world, in different ways. But is always leads to Italian life style.

Years ago the Italian "mammas" used to make pasta by themselves. Nowadays (things have changed) they usually buy it for everyday use in the supermarket and used to make at home ravioli, tagliatelle and some other specialties for festive occasions.

It looks like a loss, but it's not! Of course we want the "mammas" to keep the tradition, but now anyone can cook a good dish of pasta without needing to have extra time to make pasta at home. The Italian kitchen is turning more natural and easy, without losing its characteristics, allowing all of us to prepare tasty and easy dishes, as the following "pasta al pesto".

Pasta has no season, but its sauce has!

Springtime in Italy is a real "feel and smell" season, as we begin to go out often and when the weather allows, we also eat outside very often.

All these circumstances led us to recognize the season's aromas and uses. One of these main aromas it the basil one.

It is widely used in Italian cuisine, but during springtime it reaches its best, and it matches salads, tomatos' salads and also pasta sauces.

One of my favourite pasta recipe is Pasta al pesto.

The original recipe originated in Liguria (note: Liguria is an Italian region) and uses troffie, a kind of fresh pasta that you can maybe find at your market. But you can use penne (or any other pasta you prefer!) also the long ones are good, as spaghetti, bavettine and others.




What you'll need for 4 people:

• 400gr of pasta

• a hand of fresh basil leaves

• about 3 spoons of grated parmesan

• extra virgin olive oil

• 30g of pine nuts

• a piece of garlic

Put the water to boil and begin to put into your mixer, the garlic, the pine nuts, the grated Parmesan. As it mixes, add extra virgin olive oil until it becomes a cream.

When the water boils, add salt and the pasta and set your timer for the time needed for the kind of pasta you're cooking (usually it's written on the package). About 2 or 3 minutes before your pasta is done, take 2 or 3 spoons of the boiling water and add to your pesto. It helps it to become more creamer and easier to mix.

When the pasta is done, you just have to pour it through a strainer and mix your pesto with pasta. It's done! It's healthy (you have only raw and unsaturated fat), easy and tasty! Buon appetito!

Difficulty: very easy

Time needed: time needed for boiling the water and cooking the pasta (about half an hour or less).

What pesto means?

Pesto comes from the verb "pestare" that means pound on, referred to the pounder where ingredients were put inside and then pounded with a pestle.

Ana Maria da Costa Vasconcellos, economist and enogastronomic expert, lives in Italy since 1983 and shows Italian food culture from the inside, with tips and useful info in her website Italian food

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Ana_Maria_Da_Costa

A fun Mother's Day Tribute


In honor of Mother's Day, I found a wonderful article written by a husband whose wife doesn't work. What I liked most about it was that he recognizes his wife's hard work in the home.

Here's the link: http://www.mom2mom.com/2008/05/my-wife-doesnt-work.html or simply click on the title of the post.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Quedlinburg

One of my current works in progress, A Crimson Mantle is a novel about Matilde, wife of Heinrich the Fowler and mother to Otto the Great. Quedlinburg was their home. Today it is a Unesco World Heritage Site. I found this video on You Tube and it certainly sweeps me back into her time and is a wonderful creative tool for me as I write her story. One day, I will likely travel there, but for now, I can dream through the likes of this video.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

The folklore of Gems


Throughout the centuries jewelry has been created and worn by people of different cultures. Every culture had it gemstones that they valued and they attributed a special meaning to each. Today the list of precious and semi-precious gemstones is very large and each one has a history and folklore associated with it. The Quality Jewelry Directory has created a list of the most popular gemstones and gives a brief outline of each.


Alexandrite: One of the most valued and sought after gemstones is Alexandrite. Born in metamorphic conditions that bring together specific chemical elements to produce the mineral chrysoberyl, the gemstone has been valued by jewelers throughout the ages for its unique ability to change color from green to shades of red or very soft purple when exposed to daylight and incandescent light. Russia is the primary source for most gem quality alexandrite and was named after the Russian Tsar Alexander II. With a rich folklore history, alexandrite was thought to impart wisdom, creativity and to strengthen a individuals insight. Listed on the Mohs Scale of Hardness at 8.5, it is a perfect gemstone to design into high quality jewelry.

Ruby: Ruby is a beautiful gemstone that is part of the mineral family corundum. Corundum is found within crystals of metamorphic rock and is considered to be the second hardest mineral next to diamonds. Corundums come in different varieties and can be considered a sapphire in different colors. Some of the best rubies are in true red and come from Burma. They can also be found in other areas throughout the world, such as Australia, Kenya, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and the United States. With its well known sturdiness, it makes a perfect gemstone for jewelry. Often set with sapphires and diamonds, it is a perfect stone to pair up. The ruby was thought to have mystical powers and was often worn as a Talisman to ward off great evil. The ruby's color was often associated with blood and was thought to have the ability to stop bleeding and to heal ailments associated with it.

Sapphires: Sapphires belong to the mineral family of corundum and are found in weathered alluvial deposits from pyroclastic flows. Most sapphires are blue stones which range from slight blue to a deep indigo coloration. The most valued of the sapphires are ones that have the medium blue coloration and these are referred to "cornflower blue". Sapphires come in many colors and these are often called "fancy sapphires". Only in the case of red, are corundums called rubies. Sapphires are found throughout the world but primarily in Australia, United States. Sri Lanka, Thailand, Burma, Kampuchea, Kenya and Tanzania. The name "sapphire" comes from multiple sources. In Persian, it is "safir" and was associated with Saturn. In Latin, "sappheiros" for the island where sapphires were mined. Ancient folklore is rich with stories related to sapphires. Seen as a stone that changes its hue when the wearer was engaged in impure behavior, it was given to the wearer to help impart fidelity. Also thought to bring inner peace to the soul and spiritual enlightenment.

Amethyst: Amethyst is a purple colored gemstone that is from the mineral "quartz" and derives it beautiful purple color from the iron impurities within the crystal. Throughout the world, amethyst is primarily found in Mexico, Brazil, Canada, Uruquay, Madagascar and Australia. Amethysts occur as long prismatic crystals that form six-sided pyramids end to end and grow in druzes within crystalline crusts or in sandstone formations. Amethysts are believed to bring the power of peace and calm and are often used in meditation. Due to its rich color and calming effects it is used to relieve stress from every day work and to relieve headaches due to tension or migraine headaches. Amethyst is often seen to encourage deeper understanding, encourage love and awareness. Amethyst was often worn to bed to produce and encourage peace and beautiful dreams. Amethysts are adorned in some of the richest displays of jewelry such as the British Crown Jewels. Catherine the Great was very fond of amethyst as were the Egyptians.

Pearl: Pearl is the modern birthstone for the month of June. The beautiful pearl is the only gem that is created from a living organism, the oyster. The process of pearl formation is actually a reaction to an irritant within the oyster itself. This irritation causes a material called nacre to envelope the irritant and over time creates a beautiful pearl. Pearls come in different varieties such as cultured pearls, freshwater pearls, tahitian pearls, black pearls. Other varieties of pearls are barogues which display an irregular appearance and Mabe pearls that are cultivated blister pearls. The name "pearl", comes from the latin word, "perula" or small pear. The Chinese were the first to cultivate pearls in saltwater, but over the years they were cultivated in saltwater and freshwater alike. Today, some of the finest cultivated pearls come from Japan. Pearls are associated with purity, wisdom through experience and perfection.

Emeralds: Emeralds are actually the green version of the mineral beryl. This type of beryl contains small amounts of chromium and iron which give them their unique color. Emeralds are commonly found in sedimentary rock that has undergone changes in temperature and pressure. Emeralds can be found in the Russian Federation, United States, Pakistan, Norway, India, Malagasy, and Australia. Some of the best emeralds are found Colombia and these crystals exhibit the best quality for their size. The name emerald comes from the Greek term "smaragdos", which loosely translates to "green gemstone". The quality in the emerald is determined by it's clarity and it's deep grass green coloration which exhibits a slight hint of blue. Emeralds have a deep history and folklore. The history of emeralds can be traced to the ancient Babylonians and the Egyptians where tools have been found in ancient emerald mines where the Queen Cleopatra's emeralds originated. The Incas also mined emeralds and the largest and highest quality stones were once worn by nobility. Unfortunately, many emeralds were lost to time, due to invasions, greed or through the inclusion of these gems in private collections.

Diamonds: Diamonds are the hardest known natural material and have other qualities that make the diamond a true king of gems. Based upon the element "carbon", diamonds are actually similar to graphite, but like carbon they have a unique crystalline composition. The dense atomic structure of diamonds makes them extremely valuable in jewelry but also in modern day industrial applications. Diamonds are formed deep underground where pressure and temperature are critical for their formation. In ancient times, India was the only known source of diamonds, until after the 1800 century, deposits were discovered all over the world. Diamonds come from a variety of sources but the primary deposits are from large openings in the Earth called volcanic pipes. These are often called kimberlite pipes. The vast majority of all diamonds originate in Africa but other significant finds have been discovered in Russia and in the northwestern territories of Canada.

Turquoise: One gemstone that is very popular is turquoise. Turquoise is a copper aluminum phosphate mineral that is found in locations that have high concentrations of copper. Turquoise is created from a variety of natural process and is found in areas that are arid in climate. These climate conditions are important in weathering and oxidation of copper deposits and producing the conditions that support the creation of turquoise. Turquoise can also be created from hydrothermal actions, leaching and precipitation of surrounding copper deposits to form turquoise. Turquoise comes in variety of shades such as blue-green, and green with flecks of gray with traces of iron and chrome. The best quality turquoise is "sky blue" or often called "robin egg" blue. Turquoise is found throughout the world, but comes primarily from the United States, Iran, Afghanistan, China and Mexico.

Topaz: Topaz is a silicate mineral that has been used as a gemstone for centuries. Topaz is considered the hardest of silicate minerals but has interesting properties that make it similar to diamonds in its ability to be cleaved into smaller increments. Unlike diamonds, the crystals of topaz can come in very large sizes. Topaz is usually found in pegmatities, quartz veins and inside of granites and rhyolites. Topaz in its true form is clear, but can come in a large assortment of colors due to various impurities within the crystal lattice. These colors can range from red, green, orange, brown and yellow. Topaz in its natural state forms short or long multi-faceted crystals and is prized as a mineral specimen in its natural state. Topaz is located throughout the world but is primarily found in Russia, Australia, Africa, Mexico, Brazil and Pakistan and some of the best quality and prized topaz deposits are found in Brazil. Certain regions of the United States have topaz deposits, most notably in San Diego County and the Thomas Mountain Range in Utah which is renowned for its beautiful blue topaz.

If you are shopping for jewelry look to the Quality Jewelry Directory to help you find what you desire.

Additional information can be found in other areas of our website: Gemstones, Jewelry Cleaning, Birthstone information and Anniversary Stones.

The above list is small breakdown of each gemstones history and folklore. The list is not intended to be the end all of gemstone information and should not be looked upon as such. Each gemstone has it's own mineral data, history and folklore and all data cannot be written about each one. It is recommended to seek other websites for deeper knowledge on each.

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Thursday, March 6, 2008

Medieval Remedies




Researching my novels is one of my favourite things to do. I come across such interesting tidbits. In my novel, Orphan of the Olive Tree, I use a lot of medieval folklore and superstition. Here's some interesting remedies for common ailments of ancient times that I've found:

In the year 1250, if you wanted to cure warts, you were required to procure a live eel, fresh or salt water species were both acceptable, and cut its head off. Rub the hot blood of the eel over the afflicted area. Allow to stand until the blood dries and do not wash the body parts so treated for at least three days. Bury the head of the eel deeply within the earth. Remember where you buried it, so you can check its decomposition ---- if required. As the head of the eel rots over time, the warts will disappear. This cure generally works better in the summer months, because the eel's head rots faster.

To improve eyesight, add a drop of dew to the gall bladder of a nightingale caught before daybreak and annoint the eyelashes.

To enhance the flow of bile from the liver, eat dandelions.

To determine pregnancy, have her drink mead before she went to bed. If her stomach hurt when she woke up, then she was pregnant.

To determine the sex of a woman's child, ask the woman to stick out her hand. If she produces the right, then the child will be a boy; but, if the left is produced, then she will have a girl.

There are numerous such cures collected throughout history. Reading them makes me eternally grateful that I was born in this century.

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