Pirates, smugglers, treason, and a fake king—Lundy Island has seen it all. Something about this enticingly close, yet seductively remote, little island has attracted ne’er-do-wells for over 1,000 years…
The forests are stripped of their leaves, the earth lies frozen, the rivers are frozen with the cold. And fog and rain, together with the excess of endless nights, have robbed the earth of its joy.
–Matthäus Merian, 1622
The time period now commonly agreed—by historians and climate scientists alike—to be the ‘Little Ice Age’ lasted from between 1300 and 1850 A.D. The cooling was only slight (ranging from 2-5°C, depending on the region), but it was enough to slam Europe, and much of the Northern Hemisphere, into a climate event that saw unprecedented storms, unseasonal frosts, and ruined crops. “This decrease was large enough to leave Iceland completely surrounded by ice and to freeze the Thames in England and the canals in Holland routinely—both otherwise unheard-of events.” (Oster 218)
While there was a general cooling over the course of this 500-year period, there were two cold snaps in the 16th and 17th centuries that further strained hardship to the breaking point. Here I have gathered the research of economists, meteorologists, and historians to tell the story of the Little Ice Age and how people offered up their neighbours for slaughter in the hopes of a summer that would never come.
Now considered a cloying cliché to be rejected by the modern feminist, the fascination with flowers and, in turn, a desire for a flowery aesthetic, was not initially about dainty innocence but instead showed evidence of a scientific mind. What follows here is what I’ve discovered about the connection between flowers and women.
Comets, importing change of times and states,
Brandish your crystal tresses in the sky.
— William Shakespeare, (Henry VI, Part 1, Act 1, Scene 1)
Seeking answers in the heavens has a history as old as humankind itself. Every culture across our planet shares a heritage of calculating and making sense of the wondrous universe that surrounds us by studying the clockwork of the night sky. This is England’s story.
During our Covid times, I think we all could use something to look forward to. If you can’t think of a reason to celebrate anything—then it’s time for an Unbirthday Tea Party! The great thing about Unbirthdays is you can celebrate them with your friends who are, most likely, celebrating their Unbirthdays too—so everyone is the guest of honour! All of these treats can be enjoyed responsibly al fresco. So, grab your picnic basket and head to your favourite local park for some socially distanced celebrations!
Noises? I myself have sat in the dismal parlour listening, until I have heard so many and strange noises that they would have chilled my blood if I had not warmed it by dashing out to make discoveries. Try this in bed, in the dead of the night; try this at your own comfortable fireside, in the life of the night. You can fill any house with noises, if you will, until you have a noise for every nerve in your nervous system.
—Charles Dickens, Haunted House
In honour of Charles Dickens Day, which celebrated the 150th anniversary of Charles Dickens’ death on 9 June 2020, I’m dedicating both last week’s and this week’s posts to one of my favourite storytellers. For this week, I’ll delve deeper into the meaning behind Dickens’s ghosts.
Did you know that Charles Dickens had an enduring obsession with Mesmerism? It’s so strange when you start to dig into it, because you can begin to see how this belief informed his conception and presentation of ghosts and the supernatural within his stories. The themes that Dickens addresses most famously in his writing are the state of Victorian society and its treatment of the poor; but his ideas about the workings of the mind come through in his writing when you start to see his characters and their hauntings through the lens of his mesmeric philosophy.
From lavish feasts to naked mock marriages, death has long been an excuse for a party, even in the Christian era. This tension between life and death, celebration and grief, is marked by communities in different ways through the ages, but one common theme throughout is the need to come together, to strengthen the bonds of the community as a whole when one of their number is lost.
‘The widow-making, unchilding, unfathering deep.’
—Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1899)
It has been said that no group of workingmen harbour as many superstitions within its collective breast as sailors do—and well this should be, because no body of workers endures such dangerous conditions of employment as those mariners who ply the seven seas to make their living. In this piece, I’ve gathered just a few pearls from the deep. Here you’ll find some interesting superstitions, legends of beasties and ghost ships—ending with one full-length tale of pirate horror.
How is the Green Man linked to the Jack-in-the Green? When was green—instead of red—the colour of lust? And what does any of this have to do with church carvings and pubs? Come with me on a journey through May celebrations of yesteryear.
Robin Hood was first the subject of epic legends under different names before becoming a character of country festivals and the Tudor stage. Georgian literature then elevated him to the status of national hero. From bawdy street performance to ecological festivals today, Robin Hood is an outlaw hero for every age.