Categories
Blog

The Charm of a Ballerina’s Bun

Well, ladies and gents!

It is no coincidence that this sleek cut, always flawless, has become an ultimate classic. Dance groups around the world, tapping on their toes, reveal why the Ballerina’s bun is the ultimate female hairstyle.

Although the hairstyle is synonymous with ballet, it has its roots in the women of Ancient Greece, who created a hairstyle known today as Greek knot. A simple, low-necked chignon, typically decorated with jewels, was a symbol of elegance for wealthy Greek women.

The bun returned to modern society during the Regency period of 1800. Anyone familiar with the movie adaptations of Jane Austen’s books will recognize the stylish hairstyles that were popular among middle and upper-class women.

Women of the Regency era in England loved classical aesthetics which was associated with the fashion and hairstyles of Ancient Greece and Rome. The women began to wrap their long hair in a bun, but lift it higher than the Greek bun at the back of the head.

Well, keep reading, hun! 🙂

Victorian Era

The rise of the bun came in the Victorian period. In the 19th century, there were many variations of the bun.

Apollo’s knot” was a popular hairstyle during the 1820s and 1830s and consisted of a middle chignon and curls around the face and ears.

Another popular variant of the bun called “La Chinoise” resembled Princess Leia’s famous hairstyle in Star Wars.

Queen Victoria

The “Victoria” hairstyle by Queen Victoria was a more conservative hairstyle that reflected a dark and serious Victorian England. Two braids on both sides were attached to a simple bun on the back of the head and hung around the ears.

Under the influence of Queen Victoria, the bun became a more elegant and serious hairstyle that is typically associated with the stereotype of an “oppressed” Victorian society. 

In all of these variations, however, the bun was an important symbol of the category of discrimination for many women and a reflection of the times.

Modern Years

As the Victorian bun transformed into the more relaxed and natural “Gibson Girl” chic of the 1890s, it’s dominance came to an end. 

During the  1920s, fashionable ladies gave up complicated hairstyles for free buns. 

And yet the charm of the bun remains strong today and is still in vogue, signaling a classic kind of hairstyle.

In ballet, of course, it never left.

Thank you for reading this article of mine and write below your replies so that I can see them! 

And please let me know your thoughts—did you enjoy the topic? 

If there is anything else you’d be interested in reading about the Regency Era, feel free to let me know…

…and who knows? Maybe you will read about it soon!

Written by Olivia Bennet

Categories
Blog

The Origins of Scotland’s Higher Education

I think it’s time for a more educative article, my bonnie lads and lasses…

We have talked about Scottish folklore and fairies, and while that’s all very interesting and full of imagination, I can’t help but wonder…

What was going on in the everyday life of people in Medieval Scotland? How did people educate themselves in the 15th century, if they did so at all…?

These thoughts led me to an astonishing fountain of information regarding the ancient universities of Scotland! 

I was so intrigued by my findings that I had to share them with you, my loyal readers.

How It All Started...

Who would have thought that the Universities that were formed in Scotland in the 16th century were the only ones that existed in the country until the 20th century!

I’ve got to tell you, I was as surprised as you are…

Now…which were these Universities?

First of all, there was the University of St. Andrews, founded in 1413! This University owes its origins to a society formed in 1410. After a charter was issued, the society attracted some of the most educated men in Scotland to work as professors. In 1413 the society was confirmed to be a University with six papal bulls.

The University of St. Andrews is, until this day, very famous for its research. And the small city of St. Andrews is simply majestic...

St Salvator's Chapel, St Andrews. Image source.

Moving on, the second University founded in Scotland was the University of Glasgow, in 1451. The University was founded after the request of King James II.

You want to know why? It was the King’s wish for Scotland to have two impressive universities, such as England did with Cambridge and Oxford.

Once more, the rivalry between England and Scotland shows its face, but in a more civilized way this time. Wouldn’t you agree?

Just take a look at this breathtaking building…

The Main Building of the University of Glasgow, from Kelvingrove Park. Image source.

Third on our list is the magnificent University of Aberdeen, established in 1495, which has a rather complicated history. Be sure to search for it…it is rather interesting.

And, last but not least, is the acclaimed University of Edinburgh, founded in 1558. By the 18th century, the University of Edinburgh played a huge role in the development of the Scottish Enlightenment, a period characterized by very important intellectual and scientific accomplishments.

The University of Edinburgh's Robert Adam-designed Old College, home of its Law School. Image source.

It is important to note that by this time Scotland had created four acclaimed Universities, while the much larger England had only two…

Who could have thought that our lovely Scotland had such an important and strong presence when it comes to education?

A Different Approach

But what could one person study at these Universities?

Of course, subjects were much different compared to those offered at our universities today.  In general, at the Universities of the Medieval period, one could only study one of the following: Liberal Arts, and the higher disciplines of Law, Theology, and Medicine.

The Universities were the evolution of the much older Christian Cathedrals schools and monastic schools.

So, it turns out that Scottish history is rich with various information. Isn’t that right?

We keep hearing about all the famous Scottish and English wars but as it turns out there is much more to our beloved Scotland than that.

It is true what they say: the more you read about something the more interested you become in it…

I can’t wait to learn more about the Universities of the Medieval period and report back to you. I surely hope I have inspired you to do the same!

Until next time…

Written by Maddie MacKenna

Categories
Blog

The Wild West Doctors And Their Shocking Treatments

Imagine a typical ordinary day in the Old West. Saloon fights, shootings, bandits, robberies, stagecoaches, mining accidents, diseases...And I’m mentioning these without much thinking, my dear! The way of life and the conditions of the Wild West were definitely risky.

And when something bad—like the above—happened, people would need...medical treatment! And who would treat them?

Well, doctors of the Old West. Who were called physicians.

So today my dear, prepare to be shocked...

Doctor’s Work or Devil’s Work?

Of course, things were way different than they are today—and I’m grateful for that. A doctor back then could easily prescribe a mercury compound to a sick person that not only it would not help his condition, but also it would probably make the person’s teeth fall.

That is why many people who lived back then claimed that the doctor’s work was the devil’s work. Many doctors of the Wild West performed some kind of surgery—wait for it—without anesthesia!

People tended to be afraid of the medical treatment much more than their injury or sickness. But can we blame them?

Any Previous Experience?

The most shocking thing I found out in my research was that most of the Frontier doctors were untrained. They had no previous medical experience or any experience at all. And just like that, they were physicians. Or to say it better, they called themselves physicians

They were self-taught and many times they performed surgery without even having seen one before in their life. Some of them had perhaps read one or two books written by healers of their previous era, but we can understand that this wasn’t a relief to anyone. Healers and druids might have known some important things about treatments, herbs and homemade medicines back then, but they weren’t scientists in any case.

Give Me The Strong Stuff

Well, we can imagine that, if the majority of doctors was like that during the Frontier Era, the medicines were even worse. The patients were treated with purgatives or drugs. Their doctors claimed that purgatives would clean up their entire system, and make the sickness go away. Of course, the sickness didn’t bother...

The other option back then was drugs. Strong, powerful medicines that caused the patient dizziness, delusions, trembling and numbness. Those drugs were also very expensive. A single ounce of each could cost more than a horse, or a cow back then. Quinine or Ipecac were especially wanted. Most of the time, the effect of the drugs wasn’t the patient’s cure.

Other “Treatments”

March 20, 1875, issue of Leslie’s magazine (New York) depicts temporary quarters for Volga Germans in central Kansas. URL = http://kshs.org/publicat/history/2005spring_turk.pdf PD published in US before 1923 (image source: Wikipedia)

It was strongly believed that strong-smelling and vile-tasting were also very effective treatments. Drinking sulfur, for example, was considered to do good in everything. Instead of drinking milk, for example, people of the Western Era were drinking sulfur or other strong stuff.

Steam or frozen baths, weird diets and Indian herbs were also widely popular. Very few of them actually helped the sick people though.

And now it’s time to tell you about the famous calomel!

It was the drug made of mercury that was supposed to cleanse the patient’s system, but also had another effect…It made the patient’s teeth fall. 

Bloodletting or just bleeding was another treatment method. It was thought something like purging. The patient should let the disease flow through his blood.

Medical Equipment

Homemade bandages, knives and alcohol  would easily be found in a physician’s bag. Alcohol was thought to be a very good painkiller and was offered to the patients in any case. It didn’t matter what you had—it did matter what you drunk. Whiskey in most cases. What else?!

Surgeries, Because “What Doesn’t Kill You, Makes You Stronger”

A “physician” would perform “surgery” everywhere. At the kitchen table, at the saloon, at home. Many times, his tools were rusty or not cleaned properly, but still, he would perform the surgery.

Needless to say that except for alcohol, there wasn’t any painkiller available back then. Therefore, a patient had to suffer the surgery without any anesthesia at all.

Shocking Medical Cases

In my research, I found examples of real experiences in the Old Western medical treatments. Among others, I was shocked to read about:

  • A Caesarean section by an untrained physician who had never even seen one before, without anesthesia. The mother survived, but the child didn’t make it.
  • A 25-minute operation without anesthetics in which the physician managed to remove a 22-pound tumor from a woman’s abdomen.

Post Mortem...Experiments

There were many cases in which physicians were examining the bodies of deceased people, in order to know the human body and understand its remarkable functions and organs.

It is kind of ghoulish, but back in those days, there wasn’t any other way to explore and discover human anatomy and the miracle of the human organism. That was how anatomy and biology were developed after all.

Concluding…

In conclusion, we may say “good old times”  when talking about the Old Western Era ,sweetie, but the truth is that when it came to medical treatments things were terrible—and terrifying, if you ask me!

Thank you for being here with me once again! I appreciate your love and support!

I would love to hear your thoughts once again! So please feel free to share them with me! You know how! 😉

Written by Cassidy Hanton

Categories
Blog

Victorian-era Graffiti and Symbols You Didn’t Know About

Hello, my sweetie! 

From the Middle Ages to the present, the British capital has always been the metropolis of visual communication and one of the birthplaces of modern advertising.

By the Victorian era, labels of the type “Florist”, “Tavern”, “Smithery” had disappeared. They had been replaced by inventive names, puns that impressed upon the mind and fancy paintings.

In fact, some brands that are now established as representatives of specific stores have their roots in Victorian London.

Keep reading, sweetie! 🙂

The Red Stripe Roller

The red stripe roller that exists outside many barberries was established by the London barbers.

Before the 11th century, when medicine in England was still in its infancy, many barbers used to perform the duties of a dentist and surgeon, since regular scientists were kind of deficient. In order for people to distinguish those who provided these extra services, the barbers placed a red wrapped pillar outside their store.

The pole symbolized the wooden stake that the barber gave the clients to hold during the operations so that their hand remained steady and the blood flow consecutive. The red cloth symbolized the blood. 

Over the years, the barber's responsibilities have been limited to haircuts and shaving. However, the pole with the wrapped red stripe had been established and remained out of several barbershops, still.

Other Uses of Symbols

Similarly, the representation of Adam and Eve in the gardens of Eden became synonymous with the grocery store, the unicorn horn was adopted by pharmacists and a bag full of nails by ironworks. 

Each merchant adjusted the facade of his shop according to his style, but always with the use of visual aids. Thus, until the invention of photography and printing, the London markets had been transformed into a large and colorful canvas, made up of fancy inscriptions competing against each other on impressing passers-by.

For example, a representation of the Pompeii disaster seemed to be the ideal “barker” of a business that undertook cockroach insecticides and disinfection.

Illustrations of housewives over steamy pots adorned grocery signs. The importance of allegory and subconscious messages in advertising was theorized many centuries later. English retailers had done it long before marketing became a science.

The First Graffiti

During the same period, the first graffiti appeared.

Street art was born as a form of protest. One of the first recorded graffiti in London was a poem written in Latin. In the following decades, people of lower social classes and “children of the street” used to “mark” the walls of their area with their names. 

Young people began to write slogans of social, religious and political content. By way of example, some of the graffiti one could encounter on the streets of the British 18th-century would write: “Christ is God”, “Damn the Duke of Richmond!” or “Murder Jews”! 

Graffiti Art

The prison walls were also full of graffiti. Curses, names of loved ones, and verses of the Bible were at the top of the prisoners' preferences for decorating their cells.

The beggars on the streets also left their mark. They used to carve the pavement or write on the walls behind them. “Can you help me?”

Artists selling their work on the street followed a similar pattern. “Everything is my own creation”, they carved the floor next to their works. 

So London was never a dull city. The buildings, the streets, the shops always had a story to tell, as the residents made sure to imprint it on them...

Well, my sweetie, this is the end of this article!

I hope you enjoyed it—I certainly did while writing it!

Thank you for accompanying me on my writing journey!

It would be lovely if you could share your thoughts with me! Or whatever you like...Surprise me! 

Written by Violet Hamers

Categories
Blog

Strange Pastimes from the Victorian Era

I’ll be honest with you; as much as I love the Regency and Victorian times and their gossip-loving nobility, I would not have thrived if I had been born back then.

Why, chances are, I would have given my parents’ a whole lot of things to worry about and I certainly would have ended up a spinster.

With lots of horses.

And cats.

And dogs.

Which doesn’t sound so bad right now, actually, but oh dear! It would have been a curse back then!

Daily life in the Victorian Era was strictly regulated, with very particular rules of etiquette that were not to be breached, even during leisure time. In the mid-1800s, visits to public parks, libraries and halls increased (always chaperoned, of course!), however, that did not mean that social rules got any laxer.

Unbecoming behavior, such as public meetings with unmarried men, lapses in decorum, or unsuitable attire were still very much undesirable and forbidden.

Do you know what else was considered unbecoming behavior?

Picking flowers!

(I want to make a flower crown, sue me…)

Having said that though, there was a number of indoor and outdoor pastimes that people of all ages and social standings liked to indulge in, some more than others. Obviously, most of these activities were only accessible to the upper classes, but these social restrictions weren’t enough to stop people from having some much-needed fun.

I’ll go as far as to say that some of these pastimes became “the rage!”

And some of them were weirder than others…

Cemetery Picnics

Sounds crazy?

It sure does!

But I’m telling you, this really used to be a thing!

With fewer parks, gardens, and museums to choose from, many Victorians sought to have a good time in graveyards.

Sprawling “rural cemeteries” began cropping up in Britain after 1830. Groups would pack lunches and have picnics among the tombstones. Afterwards, they might go hunting or have carriage races on the grounds. Cemeteries became such heavily-trafficked destinations that guidebooks were distributed to visitors at some of the most famous locations.

Croquet

Croquet was introduced in England in 1856 and was probably brought to America in the early 1860’s. It was considered particularly suitable for women since it required considerable skills but not too much strength or technique.

(Victorians believed women were deficient in both. Like my iron deficiency, huh?)

Although croquet was never a popular men’s game, it had both social and economic advantages: men and women could play together, and it required little equipment and no special clothing.

-A drawing in an 1870 edition of The Illustrated London News included plenty of croquet players at the All-England Croquet Club. Hulton Archive, via Getty Images.

Fern Collecting

In the 19th century, “fern fever” or pteridomania caught England by storm. It was so prevalent that it was even given an official name: pteridomania. The phenomenon took off in 1829 when a British botanist named Nathaniel Bagshaw Ward started cultivating the plants in glass cases (later known as Wardian cases; today we call them terrariums). Soon enough, Victorians around the country were hunting desirable ferns to grow in their own homes. The hobby was especially popular among women, perhaps because it offered them a socially acceptable excuse to be outdoors unsupervised.

-"Gathering Ferns" (Helen Allingham) from The Illustrated London News, July 1871.

Anthropomorphic Taxidermy

When it came to the taxidermy of creatures of the Victorian period, some had more dignified afterlives than others. Positioning stuffed animals in typically human scenarios became a popular theme within the artform—and it was indeed an artform. Popular taxidermists like Walter Potter and Hermann Ploucquet put an extraordinary amount of effort into making their scenes come to life. Memorable pieces from the era depicted ice-skating hedgehogs, a classroom full of rabbits, and a wedding attended by kittens decked out in highly detailed garb.

Consider me adequately creeped out…

-Walter Potter’s Museum of Curiosities: “A Schoolroom of Rabbits”

Making Scrapbooks…With Seaweed

You can add seaweed to the list of plants Victorians were obsessed with. After collecting the specimens, scrapbookers would paste the multi-colored strands onto sheets of construction paper. The designs were more aesthetic than educational, with the seaweed sometimes arranged to spell out words or form images.

Using Hair To Make Jewelry

Though using human hair in art and jewelry dates back to ancient Egypt, the practice soared to new heights with the Victorians. Snippets of hair were woven into rings, necklaces, pins, watch chains, and other unique pieces of ornamentation. A lock of hair taken from a living loved one acted as a very personal version of a friendship bracelet. Hair cut from the deceased, meanwhile, was often made into keepsakes for those coping with their loss.

-https://www.langantiques.com/victorian-hair-mourning-brooch.html

And here’s a bonus fan fact, that might not be related to the Victorian Era but I still find it interesting!

Did you know that scientists nowadays can turn human hair into diamonds?!

Some Good Ol’ Ghost Talking

Ah, I saved the best for last!

These days, “seances” seem more like the stuff you see in teen horror films, with a group of unsuspecting teenagers breaking out the Ouija board and unleashing unspeakable evil upon the world. But during the Victorian Era, attending one was a major event. At the time, Spiritualism—a religious practice focused on contacting the dead—was extremely popular. Spiritualists would host intimate séances at home, or go out to see mediums perform otherworldly acts on stage. In addition to moving Ouija boards, mediums would summon disembodied hands, levitate tables, and cough up ectoplasm during communions with the dead. Or at least, that’s how it seemed to participants who bought into their tricks.

Yeaaah, thanks, but no thanks!

Phew!

Victorians sure did know how to have fun, didn’t they?

Why, what could possibly be more exciting that human-looking deceased animals or eating your lunch among the tombstones of strangers?

….

….

….

On a second thought, I’ll stick with my books, thank you!

Written by Hanna Hamilton

Categories
Blog

The Fascinating Story of Gentlemen’s Clubs

Hello, again, my dearies! 

Every well-respected Regency novel should mention at least one Gentleman's Club. In my mind, when I think of those clubs, I picture staid facades hiding smoke-filled rooms and intrigue amid wallpapers, expensive carpets, leather and mahogany furniture...

The Gentlemen's Clubs started in London in the 17th century and were places where the men of high society in England were gathered. Every respectable Regency gentleman belonged to a gentlemen's club. 

When a member was accepted into the club, it was known as an “election.” All exclusive gentlemen's clubs in London used a method of voting for proposed new members whereby a system of back and white balls were deposited, in secret by each election committee member, into a special box. A single black ball was sufficient to deny membership. Hence the term “blackballed.”

But why did men of that time need special places like those? If we take a look at the conditions that prevailed then, we can see how these clubs came about.

If you are interested in learning more then, my dear, keep reading! 

How the Gentlemen Clubs Got Started

The gentlemen's clubs were born in England. The first club to operate and pave the way for their expansion was White's, in west London. Initially, it was a shop selling hot chocolate and tea. Not what we have in mind, uh?

The man who founded White's in 1693 was Francesco Bianco, an Italian immigrant. In just a few years White's had become a privately owned club consisting of exclusive members.

White's started out as a traditional English coffeehouse, where customers met and discussed business and current affairs. The noticeable difference from classic pubs was that they did not serve alcohol at the coffeehouse. So customers who would like to stay sober and discuss some business, would go to the White's. Can I have a brandy, please? 

As the years passed, White's reputation spread and it became increasingly difficult to become a member. It gained the reputation that it was the right place to gamble. It had become so famous that his customers were called "White's gamblers."

Brooks's was the second club to open, long after White's, in 1762. It was opened by three former White's members, who were excluded for life from entering the club, and decided to open their own.

In the 18th and especially in the 19th century, most clubs were divided according to the political preferences of the members. In the 19th century, clubs were associated with parties of the time. Few were members of two clubs that supported different parties.

White's was frequented by members and friends of the Tories party (today's Conservative party), while Brook's was more targeted by Whigs’ friends (whose evolution is the Liberal Democratic Party).

However, the more clubs opened, the more specialized their goal became. For example, there were gambling clubs or travel clubs.

The Acme of Gentlemen Clubs 

The popularity of gentlemen's clubs was increasing in England. According to historical records of the time, their number exceeded 400 (!) clubs, the most well known being Almack's, Carlton, and the East India Club.

In the mid-19th century, the British parliament passed a series of legislation (also known as the Reform Acts) that gave more and more men the right to vote. The number of gentlemen was constantly increasing. Their status required them to become members of one club, and this created the need for more clubs.

In the Victorian era, the rules of good behavior controlled the lives of both women and men. The clubs were a place where men could be more relaxed and away from the "politically correct" behavior of the time.

English men of the time were often forced to marry women of the same upper social and economic class. Many times these women were from another country. There have been cases where the couple first met on their wedding day. As was natural, the couple often suffocated and illicit relationships and scandals were flourishing at that time. However, a scandal could lead to financial ruin, social disintegration, and even disengagement from the club, so everyone made sure to keep those relationships as secret as possible.

In their spare time, Englishmen of the time were playing billiards, gambling, reading, discussing theater and music, as well as timeliness. At the clubs, they found everything they wanted for them to be comfortable. Some clubs even had beds, but only for their members to sleep, as women were strictly forbidden. Oh my!

In 19th-century England, gambling was allowed only in certain places, and the clubs served this purpose precisely: to allow the upper classes to play gambling.

Historians of the time say that gambling was the main occupation of the gentlemen's clubs. The most popular game was the whist, the precursor to today's wistful.

In most games the players and those who watched them made bets. The amounts of bets have often been mythical. An example is Arthur Wellesley, the first Duke of Wellington, who allegedly wagered £100.00 each night on the whist. White's had become the second home for the wealthy Duke, who had been sleeping in the club for years. 

The situation went beyond the limits in many cases. For some men, the passion for gambling became an obsession. Various bets have been recorded, such as which raindrop on the glass would reach the bottom of the window first, or if the next member coming to the club would enter the club  with his right or left foot…Men, am I right?

Gentlemen Club Today

Over the years the number of clubs began to decline. The socio-economic changes that took place in the 20th century led many clubs to close down.

Nowadays, while the aristocracy in England—with its titles of nobility and vast fortunes—remains, the upper classes have changed form. Technology has also played a role in this, as the internet and virtual reality have come into our lives for good. Places like clubs, small cinemas, and video clubs tend to gradually disappear...

For example, gambling was one of the main ways to entertain club members. With the legalization of gambling in recent decades, there was no longer any need for gentlemen's clubs.

However, the gentlemen's clubs have not completely disappeared; although in most cases there are no longer any restrictions on gender or socio-economic status.

White's is still there, though it has now been moved to St. James street, and continues to be an attraction for the British aristocracy. Prince Charles and his son, Prince William, as well as other members of the British royal family are members of the club, which still retains its old style.

Well, my dear, this is it!

Thank you for reading my article…I hope you found it interesting and that you have learned a lot!

I would love to know your thoughts on today’s topic so please leave a comment below!

You’re fantastic 🙂

Written by Scarlett Osborne

Categories
Blog

The Secret Language of the Victorian Fan

Let’s be honest here.

There’s something exquisitely graceful about a beautiful, well-dressed lady waving her fan bashfully.

With uses ranging from the practical to the symbolic, fans have been playing the part of the link between cultures for thousands of years.

They can keep you cool in hot weather, serve in religious ritual, display sophistication and wealth, or function as an advertising medium. Perhaps the most enduring role of the handheld fan is as the symbol of wealth or Royalty, which stretches as far back as the ancient civilizations of Egypt and Babylon and continues even to this day.

However, there’s one lesser-known fact about fans that you probably haven’t heard of before.

Fans had and, to this day, still have their very own distinct language!

As it turns out, Regency and Victorian Era ladies were experts at it!

And today, I’m going to walk you through this unique code of courting, flirting and secret messages!

The Code of Fans

Carrying the fan, open, in the left hand: “Come and talk to me.”

Touching the tip of the fan with the finger: “I wish to speak to you.”

Letting the fan rest on the right cheek: “Yes.”

Letting the fan rest on the left cheek: “No.”

Drawing the fan through the hand: “I hate you.”

Drawing the fan across the cheek: “I love you.”

Presenting the fan shut: “Do you love me?”

-1886 feather opera fans and satin painted fan

Twirling the fan in the left hand: “We are watched.”

Twirling the fan in the right hand: “I love another.”

To fan very slowly: “I am married.”

To fan very quickly: “I am engaged.”

To put the handle of the fan to the lips: “Kiss me.”

To open the fan wide: “Wait for me.”

-Vallotton, Félix Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam (Vincent van Gogh Foundation)

To place the fan behind the head: “Do not forget me.”

To do so with the little finger extended: “Goodbye.”

Carrying the fan in the right hand and in front of the face: “Follow me.”

To press the half-opened fan to the lips: “You may kiss me.”

Clasping the hands under the open fan: “Forgive me.”

To cover the left ear with the open fan: “Do not betray our secret.”

To hide the eyes behind the open fan: “I love you.”

To shut the full open fan very slowly: “I promise to marry you.”

Drawing the fan across the eyes: “I am sorry.”

Touching the tip of the fan with the finger: “I wish to speak to you.”

Number of sticks shown: Corresponding hour to meet.

Placing the fan near the heart: “You have won my love.”

-Eva Gonzales, Drawing, 43 x 28 cm, 1869, (Minneapolis Institute of Arts (United States))

Oh dear, how very exciting!

I’ve always been extremely interested in secret codes and this special use of such an unassuming item makes my senses tingle!

Now, doesn’t a heroine who uses this language deserve her own story? And a Duke?

Hmm….

Written by Patricia Haverton

Categories
Blog

The Origins of the Ceilidh

Image source

It’s the Holidays and all everyone wants is to have some fun, forget their problems and have a laugh!

Well, I have just the way for you to do so and it’s called “Ceilidh”!

First things first. What is a Ceilidh? 

I am sure that the people that had the luck to have traveled to Scotland have heard of a Ceilidh, as it is something still practiced today.

A Ceilidh is a social gathering—nothing formal—where there is Irish and Scottish music playing and people dancing. Sometimes there is even storytelling! 

It is pronounced “Kay-lay”! I know, who could have guessed? 

The word derives from Gaelic, of course, and it can mean many things. Originally it meant a “visit” and it can even mean a “house party” or a “concert”.

The form of  Ceilidhs is different in the Lowlands and the Highlands. In the Lowlands, they are meant as dances whereas in the Highlands as concerts. I don’t know about you but I can already imagine a few broad and strong Highlanders dancing these amazing songs

Have you ever heard of the Scottish country dancing? Well, a Ceilidh is a more informal version of that. The Scottish country dancing’s main goal is the demonstration of one’s skills.

But Ceilidhs are completely different considering that their first aim is not to win any contest but simply the enjoyment of one’s self. 

I can’t even begin to tell you how much fun a Ceilidh is...

Scottish cèilidh dancing at the 2003 Smithsonian Folklife Festival (Washington, DC). Image source. 

Who Can Dance a Ceilidh?

The answer is simple: everyone! That is the great thing about Ceilidhs, you don’t have to have a partner to dance. Some songs, of course, can be danced as a couple but most of them are danced in a group. 

Also, there is another upside with a Ceilidh dancing. You don’t have to know the steps. Why? Because there is a caller, of course. A person from the band usually explains the steps beforehand. So all you have to do, my bonnie lass, is to show up there and have fun! 

Ceilidh’s History

As I told you above, the original word signified a simple social gathering. So Ceilidhs could even happen without music or dancing. 

Back in the day, people would recite poems and ballads during a Ceilidh. So as you can understand, it was more of literary entertainment

According to tales, in small villages, old and young people would gather at a house during cold and rainy nights. Entertainers would recite ballads and stories of legendary men and women! 

I don’t know about you but it sounds lovely to me. There is nothing better to do during a cold night than hear tales of legendary people. 

Also, Ceilidhs were originally hosted by the fear-an-tigh, which means man-of-the-house. In some places in Ireland, it’s still called this way but most people today are called simply a “host”. 

The Northern Constabulary Pipe Band Fundraising Cèilidh at North Kessock, Scotland. Image source. 

It wasn’t until the middle of the 19th century that Ceilidh took its place in the Scottish dance floor. And thank God that it did. 

Ceilidhs Today

Today Ceilidhs are very popular, not only in Scotland but in many places. People choose to do a Ceilidh dance at their weddings or at big gatherings. Fun tip, Ceilidhs at weddings are the best way to bring the two families closer. It’s the perfect way to get the party started, lads!

What should you expect from a Ceilidh band? It usually includes two or three people, a fiddler, an accordionist and of course the caller! 

Some most of the popular dance routines include The Eightsome Reel, The Dashing White Sergeant, and The Gay Gordons

Most people in Scotland know how to do a Ceilidh dance since they were taught during gym lessons at school. 

So next time you hear that there is a Ceilidh dance going on, be sure to go, whether it’s in Scotland or not! 

Trust me, it’s the best and the most guaranteed way to have fun.

Until next time…

Written by Lydia Kendall

Categories
Blog

Weirds Habits From the Victorian Era

Have you ever watched the “Victoria” miniseries? Or the “Crown”? Or any movie or TV Show that deals with the British 18th and 19th century?

If you have, then I’m certain your head is already filled with images of grand manors, elaborate balls, flamboyant dresses and impeccable coifs.

The truth is though, that the Victorian Era was certainly weirder than that.

Much, much weirder…

And today I’m gonna walk you through a few things that might sound downright bizarre to you rears, but they were definitely a thing back then!

Welcome to the dark side!

Belladonna Eye Drops

Victorian women were obsessed with bright eyes.

They admired them, craved them, and apparently, they were willing to do anything to attain that seductive, doe-eyed look.

Even drown their eyeballs in the distilled essence of a toxic plant!

You see, belladonna might mean “beautiful lady” but there’s a pretty good reason why this plant is also called deadly nightshade.

While the use of these eyes drop did indeed dilate the pupil and give the eye a certain glow, they also had a plethora of adverse side effects. Blurry vision, red dry skin, fever, rapid heartbeat, difficulty with urination and sweating, hallucinations, spasms, mental health issue, and, if used over a prolonged period of time, even permanent blindness and coma.

If that ain’t a bargain, I don’t know what is!

-Illustration from Köhler's Medicinal Plants 1887

The Garden Hermit

Yes, you read that one right!

Victorians had a penchant for the bizarre and the unusual.

Among other things that would be considered utterly preposterous nowadays, the people of that Era liked the disheveled look of a hermit.

Large landowners in the 18th and 19th century were unusually fond of the eccentricities of forest people, and they often employed people to assume the role of the live-in hermit.

Picture this: you’re walking down a cobblestone path, with fragrant flowers arranged beautifully all round you. You’re whistling a happy tune as you walk, perfectly content.

And then, the whistling turns into a scream.

Because right ahead, staring at you is an old man with a long beard, tangled hair, and wearing dirty, Druid-like clothes.

These hermits would often spend decades living in an aristocrat’s garden. When they no longer could perform their duties either because of age or sickness, they were given sums of money large enough to get them through the rest of their days.

I do wonder what was written on that job description!

-John Bigg, the Dinton Hermit (via Wellcome Library)

Fasting Girls

Now, considering how big of an issue eating disorders are nowadays, this particular “craze” makes you wonder what exactly were the Victorians thinking back then.

Fasting Girls were women who appeared to possess the ability to survive without sustenance of any kind. “Appeared” being the keyword here. Obviously, these miraculous women were frauds down to the very last one, pretending to possess the unearthly power to live off on nothing more than air.

Of course, as you can imagine, once the show was over, these “special” women ate a feast all on their own.

Why would they day such a lie, I can hear you asking…

Money, fame, the chance to be picked by a rich nobleman as their personal entertainer.

Perhaps the most famous of Fasting Girls was Mollie Fancher, who supposedly lived fourteen whole years without touching food.

-Mollie Fancher(1848-1910), Known is a photograph by Mary Evans Picture Library which was uploaded on January 18th, 2018.

Electrocution

Victorians had a thing for medical therapies.

From hydrotherapy to pelvic finger massages, the people of the Era had a penchant for turning new inventions into medical treatments (many of which were entirely unsuitable for the ailment they were supposed to be a treatment for).

Why would electricity be any different?

Electropathy involved using electricity to alleviate medical problems ranging from gout, muscular weakness, rheumatism and torpid liver to (of course) hysteria.

Essentially, patients paid to be given electrical shocks. Willingly. And they paid for it!

Strange times indeed!

-Antique Davis & Kidder's Patent Magneto Electric Machine for Nervous Diseases

Professional Mourners

Compared to modern attitudes, the Victorians had a morbid fascination and peculiar obsession with death.

And professional mourners, also known as Mutes, were all the rage.

They would usually just stand in their mourning clothes around looking very sad and miserable. Walking around with a big stick, they would follow the hearse and coffin.

Considering the number of deaths during the Victorian Era, demand for the job was high.

I have to give it to Mutes though, they sure did know how to be fashionable!

Cocaine as Dental Care

Yes, you read this one right too!

Apparently, normal dental care was just too mainstream for Victorians.

Back then, toothpaste was not overly famous or regularly used (no surprise there), and instead, people chose to use a homemade tooth powder, which often included cocaine as an ingredient.

I’m not entirely sure why that was, though I presume it served as a numbing agent for the gums.

Even more disturbing was the dental care products that were used on children.

Those were almost entirely made of cocaine!

Oh dear! Can you imagine that?!

So, tell me! Did you know any of these strange habits from the Victorian Era?

Do you know any peculiar fact that belongs on this list?

Oh, please do tell!

Written by Emma Linfield

Categories
Blog

Christmas Ghost Stories

Well, ladies and gents!

The term ghost refers etymologically to a figment of the imagination. Ghosts, or spirits, shadows, gnomes are intangible forms that move between the natural and the supernatural.

Urban myths and scary stories haunt our thoughts and nightmares, and whether they are false or true can never be answered with certainty. Originally, these stories were part of an oral tradition that was passed down from generation to generation, varied or not. The so-called winter tales, synonymous with the imaginary and the phantasmagoric, appear to have been a popular place in the festivities of the Elizabethan period.

In Shakespeare's work, "A Winter's Tale" (1623), Prince Mamillius states: “A sad tale’s best for winter. I have one, of sprites and goblins.”

In the Victorian era, at Christmas and New Year's Eve, it was an established ritual to gather around the fireplace and tell stories of these strange creatures wandering at night.

Well, keep reading, hun! 🙂

“A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens (1843)

The classic Christmas story of Charles Dickens starring Ebenezer Scrooge was a role model in the history of literature.

The festive spirit did not touch him and the visits by the ghosts of the past and the future made the man reconsider and realize the value of kindness and charity.

“Ghosts And Family Legends: A Volume For Christmas” by Catherine Crowe (1859)

In December 1858, Catherine Crowe's friends and relatives gathered in a villa in England. Around the fireplace, they were discussing whether there was life after death and everyone was telling a personal story with ghosts.

Miss P. was engaged to an army officer who was in India. One night he appeared in front of her, picked up a chair, sat next to her, and talked to her for half an hour. He was looking at his watch and told her it was time for him to leave. A month later Miss P. received a letter that her fiancée had been killed the same night he had visited her! Creepy, right?

Storytelling lasts for eight nights and guests tell incidents with ghosts, strange dreams and other myths they've heard. The reason Catherine Crowe decided to write these stories is that her grandfather died on Christmas Eve and there were reports that the villa was haunted...brrr!

“A Strange Christmas Game” by J.H. Riddell (1868)

Two siblings, John and Claire Lester, inherited a home in Martingdale. One of the previous owners, Jeremy Lester, mysteriously disappeared on New Year's Eve. This night they were determined to stay awake all night to find out if there were ghosts in the house.

"They're in the oak parlor," Claire whispers. Some are at home with them and play card games.

“The Turn of the Screw” by Henry James (1898)

American novelist Henry James (1843 - 1916), studying at Harvard, lived in London and Paris. In the book "The Turn of the Screw" he transfers us to an old mansion where the new governess must protect Miles and Flora from the ghosts that seem to be circulating inside the building.

"The Turn of the Screw" was originally published in 1898 in twelve parts in the American magazine Colliers Weekly. It has been transferred to theater and cinema.

Thank you for reading this article of mine and write below your replies so that I can see them! 

And please let me know your thoughts—did you enjoy the topic? 

If there is anything else you’d be interested in reading about the Regency Era, feel free to let me know…

…and who knows? Maybe you will read about it soon!

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! It’s that time of the year again, so prepare to have the best time ever with friends and family!

God Bless!

Written by Olivia Bennet