Historic Sights Part Six
Published on March 26, 2013 by lahilden | Views: 2506

Ashford Castle is a medieval castle located on the Mayo/Galway border in Ireland.  The castle was built in 1228 by the Anglo-Norman, de Burgo family, following their military defeat of the native O’Conners of Connaught.  Although the de Burgo’s built several castles throughout the province, Ashford Castle became their stronghold.  After more than three and a half centuries in their family, and after a fierce military battle, Ashford Castle, by truce, fell into the hands of the English Lord Bingham, the governor of Connaught, who proceeded to add a fortified enclave to the castle.  In 1715 the French style chateau was added to the castle’s architecture.  By 1852 Ashford Castle was owned by Sir Benjamin Lee Guinness, who extended the estate to include 26,000 acres as well as adding two large Victorian style extensions to the castle and installing roads and planting numerous trees.  John A. Mulcahy bought the castle in 1970.  He renovated and expanded the castle to twice its size.  Mulcahy also built a golf course on the grounds and added to the gardens.  In 1985 a group of Irish America investors purchased the castle and turned it into a grand, five star hotel.  In 2008 the castle was repurchased for €50 million by Galway businessman Gerry Barrett.  Ashford Castle is considered to be one of Ireland’s finest luxury hotels and sits on 365 acres.  Currently the castle is back on the real estate market for half the price paid for it five years ago.

Château de Chenonceau is a French chateau located in the village of Chenonceau, in the Indre-et-Loire department of the Loire Valley in France.  The chateau was built on the site of an old mill on River Cher sometime before the 11th century.  The original castle was torched in 1412 to punish the owner Jean Marques for the act of sedition.  Marques rebuilt the castle and the mill in the 1430’s.  In 1513, in the hopes of pulling himself out of debt, Marques’ heir sold the castle to Thomas Bohier (Chamberlain for King Charles VIII of France).  Thomas Bohier destroyed the castle, but kept the keep standing.  He built a new residence on the property between 1515 and 1521.  The castle was seized from Bohier’s son by King Francis I of France for unpaid debts to the Crown.  After Francis’ death in 1547, King Henry II gifted the chateau to his mistress, Diane de Poitiers.  In 1555 Poitiers commissioned a bridge to join the chateau to its opposite bank.  After the death of King Henri II, his widow ousted Diane Poitiers, and Chenonceau became Catherine’s favorite residence.  As the Regent of France, Catherine de Medici spent a fortune throwing parties at the castle, as well as adding extensive gardens and fruit trees.  The castle is an architectural mix of Gothic and early Renaissance.  It is the most visited chateau in France, after the Chateau de Versailles.

Caerphilly Castle is a medieval fortification in Caerphilly, South Wales.  The castle, which encompasses thirty acres, was constructed in the 13th century and is surrounded by manmade lakes.  Caerphilly Castle is considered the second largest castle in Britain, second to Windsor Castle.  The castle is said to have introduced the concentric castle defense, which is described as a castle nestled inside another, with an outer wall protecting the inner wall.  The castle is also known for its huge gatehouse.  Originally, the gatehouse could only be reached by two drawbridges.  Caerphilly featured a network of moats and dams that were said to be the most elaborate water defenses in Britain, and inspired by Castle Kenilworth, which I spoke of in a previous post.  Caerphilly was a masterpiece of military strength and design.

Regency Home Remedies: Leeches and Bloodletting
Published on February 28, 2013 by lahilden | Views: 1838

It is likely you have tried a few home remedies when you were ill.  Perhaps some hot tea with lemon and honey, or a saltwater gargle to soothe your sore throat.  I’m sure when you were concocting your remedy that the thought of leeches never entered your mind.  And yet bloodletting was the most common practice performed by a physician until the late 19th century.  Leeches have been used for bloodletting for thousands of years, and records indicate that the Egyptians used leech therapy over 3,500 years ago.  Leech therapy was a common practice and used throughout the world.  Of course bloodletting was also done by cupping and cutting, but for now we shall stick with the leeches.

In the 16th century, apothecaries sold leeches, both to physicians and to patients.  Leeches were gathered in the spring by netting them in the fresh waters or by making yourself their meal and wading into the water with bare legs.

By the 18th century, leeches were a commodity, with the prices of leeches fluctuating from 25 to 50 cents apiece, which made them too expensive for the lower classes.  Leeches underwent a kind of golden age in the early 19th century, as a type of cure all, and although this craze was centered in France, the demand for leeches happened throughout Europe and Asia.  It was said that the leech farms were not able to keep up with the high demand.  In 1833, over 41,500,000 leeches were imported into France, with only 9-10 million exported.  A decade later, England imported six million leeches in one year from France, since their own leech production was insufficient.

Leeches were used for dentistry in 1817.  When placed onto the patient’s gum, these water worms can drain an abscessed tooth.

To apply a leech: according to author Kristine Hughes in Everyday Life in Regency and Victorian England.

Leeches must be kept out of water for a half an hour before applying.  The skin they are applied to must be washed and rubbed dry.  A little sweetened milk will make them bite.  When placing them on the patient, put the tapering end, which is their mouth, against the patient.  Do not pull off leeches.  They will naturally fall off when they are done.  Never put leeches directly over a vein.  A leech will drink blood weighing as much as itself within 15 minutes and consume between 2.5-5.5 grams of blood.  Leech bites were bathed in cold water and covered with linen.  If the bleeding doesn’t stop, then vinegar, silver nitrate, and hot wires were applied. Fed leeches were often put onto a plate of salt where they’d proceed to vomit the blood they consumed.

Leeches leave visible scars, which is why the smaller variety was popular to use of the face and neck.  Leeches can be used over and over again, however a leech used on an infected person could transfer disease to another.  The species Hirudo medicinalis has three jaws with approximately 100 sharp teeth on each outer rim.  The saliva carried by the leech renders the bite virtually painless.

By the end of the 19th century the golden age for the leech had reached its end.

Leeches made a comeback in the 1980’s and are still used today, yet only under certain circumstances.  The Federal Food and Drug Administration consider leeches to be medical devices.  The leeches most commonly used for healing are Hirudo medicinalis, the European medicinal leech species.  There are more than 600 species of leeches identified, but only 15 of the species are used for medicinal purposes.  They are particularly useful in reattaching fingers and attaching flaps of skin in reconstructive surgery because they reestablish blood flow.  Leeches can clear up congestion to prevent blood clots and prevent tissue from dying.  Leech saliva contains an active anticoagulant component protein called hirudin.  We now use this protein through laboratory methods called Recombinant DNA, which is a way used to bring together genetic material from multiple sources, creating sequences that could not otherwise be found in biological organism.  There are also poisonous leeches that are green in color and they are known to cause fever and paralysis, don’t use these.

Although in the 21st century we may now find this practice abhorrent or consider the treatment from an uninformed era, this is simply not true.  It is easy to understand why people and physicians of ancient times found this method effective, because sometimes bloodletting had the right results.  If a person suffered from hypertension, and leeches were applied, the patient’s blood pressure would drop due to the reduction in blood volume, and in this case, the leeches were beneficial.  Leech therapy was used for a wide range of symptoms, from headaches to ear infections and melancholia to fever.  And bloodletting was believed to help patients balance the body’s humors, such as phlegm, blood, or yellow and black bile.  Of course over time we learned that bloodletting was often damaging to the patients.  In 1828, Pierre Charles Alexandre Louis was one of the first physicians to openly criticize bloodletting for the treatment of disease.  In his research he found 44% of his pneumonia patients died if they were bled in the first four days, compared with 25% who were bled later in their illness.  He deduced that bloodletting was useless in treating pneumonia.  We know that bloodletting could lead to the patient’s death, case in point, the first President of the United States, George Washington had died in part from a bloodletting procedure gone wrong, seemingly five pints of blood were removed from him in less than sixteen hours. 

By nineteenth-century standards, thirteen pints of blood taken over the space of a month was a large amount, but not an exceptional quantity.  The medical literature of the period contains many accounts of bloodletting procedures-some were successful, some were not.  Today it is well established that bloodletting is not effective for most diseases.  Indeed it is often harmful, since it can weaken the patient and facilitate infections. With the backing of modern science, we have come to realize in fuller detail how these aquatic worms can provide improvement to our health and lives.  In some instances, these bloodsuckers are very useful.

Special thanks to John M. Hyson, Leech Therapy: A History and White McKenzie Wallenborn, M.D, Papers of Washington.

Historic Sights Part Five
Published on February 27, 2013 by lahilden | Views: 1604

Enniskillen Castle is located in Enniskillen, County of Fermanagh, in Northern Ireland.  Originally built in the 16th century, this castle played a large role in Ireland’s rebellion against English rule.  Enniskillen Castle was taken after an eight-day siege.  The castle consists of two sections, a central tower keep, and a curtained wall fortified with small turrets.  In the 17th century it became an English garrison fort and later served as military barracks.

Baddesley Castle is located in the historic town of Warwick in England.  The house is believed to have been established in the 13th century by Thomas de Clinton.  In the 15th century, the house was fitted with gun-ports and possibly a drawbridge.  The east range is flanked by two-story gatehouses. In the 16th century, Baddesley became of refuge for Catholic priests after the Reformation, and secret passages, and hiding places called “priest holes” were created for their concealment. These hiding places were believed to be created by Saint Nicholas Owen, who was eventually caught and tortured to death by the Protestant English government.

Berkeley Castle is a castle located in the town of Berkeley, in the county of Gloucestershire in England.  The castle dates back to the 11th century and it has been home to the Berkeley family for 850 years.  The castle remained in the Berkeley family except for a period of royal ownership by the Tudors.  Berkeley Castle was possibly the location to where King Henri VIII took Anne Boleyn to honeymoon after their secret marriage.  Over 24 generations of Berkeley’s have transformed the Roman fortress into the home it is today.  Berkeley Castle is believed to be the scene of the murder of King Edward II in 1327.  King Edward II was confined in a windowless cell near the dungeon.  The fortress is irregular in style and has various keeps and embattled buildings surrounding the court.  The keep is nearly circular, having one square tower and three semicircular ones.  Originally this castle had a moat and bailey.

Craigievar Castle is a 14th century castle located in Aberdeenshire, Scotland.  The castle stands seven stories tall and is pinkish in color due to it being a harled castle, which is a special surfacing technique, used to provide a long-lasting weather shield.  The castle sits amongst the rolling foothills of the Grampian Mountains and was the former seat of Clan Sempill.  The castle was designed in an L plan, though built upwards instead of sideways.  Craigievar Castle boasts multiple turrets and gargoyles and is noted for the craftsmanship of its plasterwork ceilings.  Craigievar is an example of Scottish Baronial architecture and was completed in 1626.  During WWI the castle was used for wounded Belgium soldiers.  William Forbes purchased the castle in 1610 from the Mortimer family who found themselves in financial straits.  The Forbes family resided here for 350 years until 1963, when the property was gifted to the National Trust of Scotland.

The Marylebone Cricket Club
Published on February 18, 2013 by lahilden | Views: 2310

The Marylebone Cricket Club is the world’s most famous cricket club, which was established in London, England in 1787.  Like hunting, boxing, and fencing, cricket was considered a gentlemen’s pursuit and provided men with plenty of gambling opportunities.  Before Marylebone opened, aristocrats and noblemen played cricket in White Conduit Fields in Islington, London.

As London’s population expanded, crowd control to watch these matches began to bother the players.  The players claimed their matches were “too public.”  Trying to find a more private venue near London, some nobles approached Thomas Lord.  Thomas Lord was a professional bowler at White Conduit Fields in Islington, and the members encouraged him to set up private grounds for the matches, guaranteeing him no financial loss.  Thomas Lord leased Dorset Fields in Marylebone and the gentlemen’s club moved there, renaming themselves “the Mary-le-bone Club.”  The first staged match pitted Middlesex versus Essex, thus the Marylebone Cricket Club came to be on May 31, 1787.

A year later the members constructed a Code of Laws detailing the game.  Marylebone Cricket Club remains the framer and copyright holder of the Laws of Cricket and those laws apply to cricket around the world.

In 1810 Thomas Lord’s lease on Dorset Fields expired.  He was forced to relocate the club to Regent’s Park.  Efforts were made to transfer the Dorset Fields’ turf to the new site, but the ground was not popular with the players. After keeping the cricket matches at Regent Park from 1811-1813, Thomas Lord moved the site again when the proposed Regent’s Canal development was going to cut through the cricket site.  Thus Thomas Lord moved the club to its final location in St. John’s Wood in 1814.  Again the turf was transferred to the new site.

The cricket matches brought in many spectators and players, and due to its success, Thomas Lord built a pavilion and refreshment stalls to cater to the crowds.  In 1805, the nobles wished to see their sons playing the game and the schools of Eton and Harrow had a match, which began an on-going tradition that still remains.  In 1825, at the age of 70, Thomas Lord sold the ground to the Bank of England Director, William Ward.  Also occurring in the year 1825, the original pavilion burned down, destroying scorecards, records, and trophies.  A new pavilion was constructed and opened the following year.

At one time, the wicket was prepared before a match by allowing sheep to come and graze on the grass.  However, the club acquired mowers and its first groundsman in 1864.  The original colors were sky blue, but this changed in Victorian times to red and yellow, now recognized around the world.

An interesting side note: Females were refused membership to the club well into the 1990’s, due to the difficulty in gaining the two-thirds majority needed to approve female membership.  In September 1998, 70% of the members eventually voted to allow female membership, ending 212 years of male exclusivity.  Until that time, the Queen, as the club’s patron, was the only woman permitted to enter the Pavilion during play, with the exception of female staff.

Published on February 6, 2013 by lahilden | Views: 1520

Since Valentine’s Day is almost here, I thought to do an article on Cupid.  Cupid evolved in Roman mythology and is known as the god of desire, affection, and erotic love.  He is the son of the Venus, the Roman goddess of love and beauty.  Although Cupid’s paternity is vague, he is often believed to be the son of Mars, the god of war.  Although, Mercury (the winged messenger of the gods) is often mentioned in regards to Cupid, since he was the one who educated Cupid.  Cupid’s Greek counterpart is Eros.  Cupid is known in Latin as Amor (Love).

As the myth is portrayed, Cupid carries the famous bow and love loaded arrows.  Any person or deity shot by one of these arrows is filled with uncontrollable desire.  In Greek Classical art, Eros was often shown as a slender youth with wings, but during the Hellenistic period he was more often shown as a chubby boy.

Cupid’s ability to compel love and desire plays roles in myths and literature.  Cupid’s popularity continued through the Middle Ages, and under Christian influence he had dual natures as Heavenly and Earthly love.  During the Renaissance period, classical philosophy endowed him with symbolic meanings.  In painting and sculpture, Cupid is often portrayed nude.  Though generally considered unselfish, Cupid was a known mischief-maker, and often this mischief was done in accordance to his mother, to whom he was a constant companion.  According to legend, Cupid carried two types of arrows, those filled with romantic love and those filled erotic love.  The Golden Arrow signified true love, whereas the Leaden Arrow signified sensual passion.

Cupid only had one child with the maiden princess, Psyche.  The myth portrays Psyche as a princess who was so great in beauty that her people begin to treat her as a goddess, even making sacrifices in the mortal Psyche’s honor.  This in turn angered Venus who sends Cupid to make Psyche fall in love with an ugly mortal.  Cupid reluctantly agrees and flies to Psyche’s bedside, but as he’s about to shoot, he scratches himself with the arrow, thus causing himself to fall in love with her.  Upon their marriage, she too became immortal.  Their daughter’s name was Voluptus, who was known as the goddess of sensual pleasure, desire, and bliss.

In modern culture, Cupid is shown with his bow and arrows, inspiring romantic love.  And of course he is one of Valentine’s Day foremost icons.

Coin Debasement
Published on January 20, 2013 by lahilden | Views: 1285

An unclipped Siliqua

Since I’m in the middle of writing the second book in my Courtesan Series, and the villain is involved in coin debasing, I thought to expand upon this crime.  Coin debasement was considered by law to be on a similar magnitude as counterfeiting and was occasionally punished by death, but more frequently punished by transport.  The act of debasing a coin essentially decreases the amount of precious metal in a coin, while the coin still continues to circulate at face value.

This act was legal and done by governments when coins were minted with lessor metals, but when done by a person, the metal was physically removed from the coin.  Meaning, the wear and tear on the coin did not occur from normal circulation.

Particially cipped Siliqua

The debaser profited by using the shavings of silver and gold, which could be melted into bullion.  There were several methods for debasing a coin.  Clipping a coin meant that a person would use a file or shears and collect the shavings from the coins they debased.  Sweating was another method, where the coins were placed in a bag and shaken, and then the dust would be collected.  Sweating tended to wear the coins in a more natural way when compared to clipping, thus making this type of debasement harder to detect.

Clipped Siliqua 

Until the mid-19th century, coins were often made of silver or gold, which were soft and prone to wear, meaning that the coins naturally got lighter over time, and thus less valuable.  Modern coins are made of hard, cheap metals like steel, copper or copper-nickel alloy, which reduces the wear and makes it unprofitable to debase them.  Coin clipping is the reason why coins have a rim marked with stripes or milling, which would be destroyed if the coins were clipped.  This helps to deter counterfeiting.

Great Britain, George III  1760-1820, Counterfeit Coins

My villain will be deported for his criminal acts, although he likely should be hanged, drawn, and quartered, but throughout history, many were not as lucky as my antagonist.  In October 15, 1690, Thomas and Anne Rogers were English counterfeiters found guilty for clipping 40 pieces of silver.  Thomas was hanged, drawn and quartered, while Anne was burned alive.  These gruesome forms of punishment were meted out because their acts were considered High Treason.  I’m sure this type of punishment served to ward off others from committing this same crime.

Smelling Salts and Vinaigrettes (no, not the dressing)
Published on January 15, 2013 by lahilden | Views: 6965

Smelling salts are chemical compounds used to arouse consciousness.  Smelling salts have been used since Roman times.  They were widely used in the late 18th to the mid-19th century in Britain to revive a fainting lady.  Smelling salts annoy through ammonium carbonate and when mixed with water, this solid compound releases ammonia gas.  If a person is feeling faint, the gas irritates them enough that they come to.  If a person is unconscious the lungs will automatically try to clear the breathing passages, thus creating an increase in the flow of oxygen to the brain and waking the person up.

To keep aromatic substances easily at hand one would use a trinket called the vinaigrette.  Vinaigrettes were containers used to hold aromatic substances, usually dissolved with vinegar.  The most common form in Regency England was the hinged silver box.  The vinaigrette was different from smelling salts in that they held a sponge that was saturated with a mixture of perfume and ammonia.

Vinaigrettes were used by both men and women and came in many shapes and designs.  They could be quite decorative and were often given as tokens of affection.  Sometimes spices and floral extracts were added to sweeten the smell.  Aromatic vinegar was believed to have many medicinal purposes for fighting infection, headaches, and fainting.  It was also used in as an inhalant to mask foul odors, which was necessary considering the sanitation on London’s streets at the time.

Raglan Castle
Published on January 6, 2013 by lahilden | Views: 1504

Raglan Castle is a late medieval castle located in the village of Raglan, in the county of Monmouthshire in southeast Wales.  The castle dates back to the 15th century, but construction on the castle continued to occur through the early 17th century.  Raglan castle featured a beautiful gatehouse, and a large hexagonal keep, known as the Great Tower.  In the 17th century, when civil war broke out between the Royalists and Parliament Roundhead forces, and religious tensions grew among the locals between Protestants and Catholics, the defenses of Raglan improved.  Modern earthwork bastions were built around the castle, a gunpowder mill was created, and a garrison of 300 men, along with cannon, was established at Raglan.  By 1646 the castle was under siege, and after a violent summer, was taken by Parliamentary forces.  The castle was ordered to be systematically destroyed by Parliament, but the castle proved to be too strong and only a couple of walls fell, thus leaving a large portion of the castle ruins.  Visitors to the castle can download audio stories through their Bluetooth on their phones.

2013 is the Year of the Water Snake
Published on January 1, 2013 by lahilden | Views: 968

The Year of the Snake begins on Feb. 10th and ends Jan. 30th 2014

The snake is intuitive, introspective, refined, and collected.  Ancient Chinese wisdom claims a Snake in the house is a good omen because it means your family will not starve.  People born in the year of the snake often have good tempers and communication skills, yet they are also likely to be jealous and suspicious.  Water snakes have better people skills than other snakes.  I had to smile when I typed that.

Water is the destroyer of fire, meaning they have a conflicting relationship.  These conflicting elements usually mean the year will not be peaceful.  This is not actually a good omen considering Pearl Harbor (1941) and the 911 terrorist attack (2001), occurred under snake years.  Nevertheless, this is the Water Snake and thus a more gentle and humble creature when compared to those snake years.  Water signifies being gentle, tolerant, and easygoing, and yet yin water can also be cunning and secretive.  If energy is guided in a positive direction, it can bring intelligent discourse, innovative ideas, and reforms.

So after a hectic year with the Dragon Yang, we move to the year of the Yin Water Snake.  The water snake is a symbol of optimism and eagerness for progress.  It may not be a peaceful year internationally, but these clashes are predicted to be less violent than in recent years.

According to the Chinese calendar this will be a year of advancement in science and research.  Think how a snake tries to move forward in one direction and yet its body undulates and it’s difficult to decipher where the snake is going.  That is how this year is perceived to go.  The Snake is a positive sign, with energy that will help us to face the challenges ahead.

Published on December 29, 2012 by lahilden | Views: 1031


Reiki is a technique founded by Japanese Buddhist Dr. Mikao Usui to reduce stress and promote healing.  The word Reiki is Japanese and is made of two words.  Rei, meaning God’s wisdom or Higher Power, and Ki, meaning one’s life force energy.  The knowledge that unseen energy flows through all living things, and is connected with our health, has been in existence since ancient times.

Reiki is administered by the laying on of hands and is based on the idea that an unseen life force runs through us, giving us life.  Reiki treats a person’s entire being, physical body, emotions, and mind and spirit.  Reiki is safe and simple.  The American Cancer Society states that Reiki can help alleviate the side effects of cancer patients undergoing cancer treatments.  After all, energy follows thought and positive thinking can have powerful effects.

The ability to use Reiki is not taught; rather it is transferred to the student during Reiki attunement.  A Reiki master gives this attunement allowing one to tap into this energy source.  There are three degrees of Reiki, usually referred to as the First, Second, and Master/Teacher level, all levels are associated with different skills and techniques.  I am a level Two Reiki Practitioner.

Reiki is not a religion, but Reiki living promotes harmony with yourself and others.  You do not have to believe in anything to use Reiki, but Reiki for me has opened my eyes to spiritual matters I normally would have dismissed.

Reiki works in conjunction with the meridian energy lines and chakras through the use of hand-positions, which normally correspond with the seven major chakras in the body.  Hovering of the hands also works, and considering how hot my hands can become, sometimes it’s preferred.  Balance and harmony in your aura energy defines your health.

I have been practicing Reiki for six years and I love it.  I Reiki myself every night before bed and the energy relaxes me and puts me to sleep.  As I do my Reiki, I also meditate, focusing my mind on God’s white light washing over me.  As Reiki runs through my body it feels like a warm, tingling radiance that flows through me, giving me a peaceful, tranquil feeling, which is likely why it helps me to sleep.  I tend to view the energy as a force given to us by God that is similar to prayer energy, with wonderful effects for which I’m most grateful.  Thank you, God.