Friday, September 8, 2017

About Fairies

What Do You Call Them?

What would the world of folklore be without fairies? These spirits, often perceived as “little people” have been helping humans, plants, and animals here as well as in other realms for a very long time. Perhaps, according to some legends and folk tales, even before then.

The word Fairy- also spelled as Faery -  originates from the Latin word fatum which means fate or destiny. The English version we are all familiar with has roots in the French version fee. It has been suggested that the Saxon word feie refers to a specific world inhabited by fairies.

That world can exist in many places. Depending upon the culture, it can be over the rainbow, under the sea or in the stars. It can also be found in tree roots, summer breezes and winter snow.

Here are some of the names different cultures have given these ‘other worldly beings’:

AsparasThese feminine sky dancers have the ability to swoop down and bless people during important rites of passage, such as births and weddings.

Brownie Residing over Scottish Lowlands and Highlands, these spirits are often compared physically to very short men who appear at night to complete the work of servants.  Named after their ragged brown clothing and rugged brown skin, they come out at night to help to take care of work that has been left by the servants.
Glaistig Part woman, part goat, these water fairies can do many things. They can lure men in order to drink their blood, they can help old people and young children, and they can help with the herding of cattle.

Ohdows - This family of dwarf, well-formed people of Native Americans stories and myths live underground, inside the belly of the earth. From there they can thwart above ground deities that cause destruction, such as earthquakes.

TokoloshSouth African legends say that these spirits, covered in black hair, live near waterways and scare lone travelers by causing other animals to cry out in fear.

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Thursday, August 31, 2017

Renaissance Spice Sailors


Spices during the Renaissance

Renaissance sailors first took to the seas to supply England and Europe with the many Asian and Mediterranean spices that were in demand. Peppercorns, nutmeg, mace, and cinnamon all came from lands to the east. Also from the East came precious gems and fine silk, a fabric especially sought after for women's clothing. These trading voyages were often paid for by investors and/or monarchs.

Buying black pepper, ginger, cloves and other spices back then was costly as these delights were considered to be valued as highly as gold and silver.

The people of the Renaissance found many uses for spices in everyday life. For example:

  • Black Pepper was used to preserve and flavor spoiled meat.
  • Cloves and cinnamon were used as substitutes for cleanliness, and were scattered across the floor to prevent foot odor from permeating the room.

Spice Lore:

Food has long been associated with health and well-being. People believed in the medicinal as well as supernatural properties of the spices they used. These tales also applied to the challenges that were faced when trying to secure these valuable and tasty commodities.

Here is one example: Before the Renaissance, it was reported that Arabs had cornered the cinnamon trade market. They restricted trade to maintain their monopoly. For sailors, the routes were made more hazardous by the legends that surrounded their efforts to secure and deliver these this spice. It was believed that poisonous snakes protected the great storehouses and that threatening birds built nests on mountain passes that made it almost impossible to safely return to the ships.

Renaissance era household cookbooks regularly recommended ginger, pepper, sugar, cinnamon, and other spices to treat stomachaches, headaches, or even to cure poisoning. Cookbooks of the royalty and nobility contained tarts, meats, soups, and other recipes that included great numbers of spices.

With the exception of mustard, fennel, and a few others, most spices had to be transported to Europe over the course of many months (if not years) via land trade routes like the Silk Road.

They came by sea on galleons that, under Elizabethan rule, were engineered with longer and lower designs that made them faster. 

To learn more about food of the Renaissance, click here.

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